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Private SpaceX Dragon Heralds New Chapter in Space, Takes Off to ISS

Oct 08, 2012 08:22 AM EDT
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SpaceX successfully launches its 14th Falcon 9 rocket

Privately-owned SpaceX's Dragon capsule blasted off successfully to the International Space Station (ISS) Sunday at 8:35 p.m. EDT from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The capsule, sent as part of the SpaceX CRS-1 mission, is carrying about 1,000 pounds of cargo materials including food supplies and other equipments to the ISS. It will make contact with the ISS Wednesday (Oct. 10), announced NASA.

Astronaut Sunita Williams, commander of the ISS, and Aki Hoshide will reach out to the cargo ship and drag the capsule by the robotic arm and attach it to the Earth-facing port of the space station's Harmony module. The astronauts will undock the cargo load.

After spending three weeks at ISS, the spacecraft will be sent back to Earth with 2,000 pounds of hardware equipments and experiments. It will splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern California Oct. 28.

Expressing happiness over the successful launch, NASA administrator Charles Bolden said, "This was a critical event in spaceflight tonight."

 "We're once again launching spacecraft from American soil with the supplies our astronauts need in space. NASA and the nation are embarking on an ambitious program of space exploration," he added.

With the successful launch, SpaceX's Dragon capsule has become the first private spacecraft to be sent to the ISS for carrying cargo stuff.

This is the second time that Dragon capsule has been sent for cargo delivery. Earlier in May, the Dragon capsule took off to the ISS to supply cargo as part of a demonstration flight.

The spacecraft belongs to Space Exploration Technologies Corp., owned by Elon Musk. After the retirement of its space shuttles in 2011, NASA signed a $1.6-billion contract with the Hawthorne-based company to use 12 cargo supply flights in the future.

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