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Falcon 9 Launches for International Space Station

[Falcon 9 rocket - Image Courtesy of NASA]
[Falcon 9 rocket - Image Courtesy of NASA]

The first commercial supply mission to the International Space Station has launched successfully. A Space-X rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station just after 8.35 on Sunday night.

The Dragon space craft packed with 1000 pounds of cargo (clothing, food and scientific equipment) thundered into the night sky atop a white Falcon 9 rocket.

SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell described the launch as "picture perfect"

“This is the first time we’ve lifted off at our planned T-zero, which is excellent," said Shotwell at a news conference after the lift off.

"We did insert Dragon into a picture perfect orbit, within 2 or 3 kilometers on both apogee and perigee, and Dragon is on its way to station.” 

One of the rocket's nine engines lost pressure and shut down shortly after launch, but the company says the engine failure has no impact on the mission to resupply the space station.

The dragon capsule is scheduled to reach the ISS on Wednesday. 

Later in October the spacecraft will return to earth with over one thousand pounds of hardware and scientific materials.

It’s the first of 12 supply missions under a contract with NASA worth $1.6 Billion, and it marks a return to regular flights from US soil to the space station, after the end of the shuttle program.

NASA administrator Charlie Bolden, who made a brief statement to reporters after the launch, described it as a critical moment for NASA and the US.

“What I call a historical event in the annals of space flight," he said.

"Just over a year after the retirement of the space shuttle, we have returned space station cargo resupply missions to US soil, and are bringing jobs associated with this back, right back here to America.”

Charlie Bolden said despite the end of the shuttle program, the US is still the leader in space technology and exploration.

"I have a hard time understanding what people say when they talk about 'regaining a leadership role' or whatever," said Bolden.

"We never lost it. What this does is it strengthens our position of leadership."

SpaceX successfully launched a demonstration flight to the orbiting outpost in May.

The company aims to eventually send astronauts into orbit, but for now, the US still has to rely on Russian Soyuz craft to get its astronauts to the ISS.

 

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