Private spaceflight supporters saw a major validation Tuesday with the successful launch of the first commercial vehicle to visit the International Space Station.
The unmanned Dragon capsule, built by the commercial firm Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX), lifted off atop the company's Falcon 9 rocket at 3:44 a.m. EDT (0744 GMT) from a pad here at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
"I think we're really at the dawn of a new era for space exploration and one where there's a much bigger role for commercial companies," SpaceX founder and chief designer Elon Musk said during a news briefing following the launch. Musk, a billionaire entrepreneur, watched over the flight from SpaceX's mission control center at its Hawthorne, Calif., headquarters.
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Dragon is due to rendezvous with the space station on Thursday (May 24); the next day, astronauts inside the outpost plan to grab onto the capsule with the station's robotic arm and berth it to the laboratory.
The mission is the final test flight for the Dragon capsule before it can start delivering cargo to the space station. SpaceX is contracted to fly at least 12 delivery missions over the next few years for a total of $1.6 billion.
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Space X Has Successful Launch
Probably the most important news story of the day. From MSNBC: