US-based Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has successfully launched its 21st Commercial Resupply Services mission (CRS-21) for Nasa.

The SpaceX Dragon resupply spacecraft lifted off from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Centre, Florida, aboard the reusable, two-stage Falcon 9 rocket on 6 December.

The spacecraft separated 11 minutes after lift-off from Falcon 9’s second stage and is set to perform the first autonomous docking today.

It will remain at the International Space Station for about a month.

In its press release, Nasa stated: “This 21st contracted resupply mission for SpaceX is the first flight of an upgraded Dragon design, similar to that of the Crew Dragon used to transport astronauts to and from the station. The upgraded spacecraft has double the capacity for powered lockers, with 12, which preserve science and research samples during transport to and from Earth.

“Science payloads now also can remain in the upgraded Dragon through the duration of the mission as an extension to the station’s lab space. Four powered payloads will reside in Dragon during this docked mission.”

SpaceX Dragon lifted off with more than 6,400lb of science investigations, including meteorite samples and microbes and a new medical device designed to offer rapid blood test results for astronauts in the space.

It also carried a chamber to move experiments that are as big as refrigerators.

With this launch, Falcon 9 completed its 100th successful take-off.

Last month, Nasa officially certified SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon human spaceflight system to transport astronauts becoming the first-ever such system to secure this kind of certification.