Tuesday, May 22, 2012

First SpaceX launch to ISS successful; 'Scotty' among ashes 'beamed up'

This time for sure: the company SpaceX has launched its Dragon 9 capsule into space, atop its Falcon 9 booster rocket. The "test mission" is carrying over half a ton of supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). It will return to Earth with 1,455 pounds of payload.

Unlike Saturday's launch, which was aborted, literally, at the last second, the Tuesday launch went off without a hitch. With that, the company has made history, with the May 22, 2012 mission being the first executed by a private company to the ISS.

Prior to this, sending a spacecraft to the ISS has only ever been accomplished by four entities, all governmental one: the United States, Russia, Japan and the European Union.

Speaking at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., founder and CEO Elon Musk said, "There's so much hope riding on that rocket. When it worked ... and they saw their handiwork in space and operating as it should, there was tremendous elation. For us, it's like winning the Super Bowl."

Separately, at Cape Canaveral, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said, "Today marks the beginning of a new era in exploration; a private company has launched a spacecraft to the International Space Station that will attempt to dock there for the first time. And while there is a lot of work ahead to successfully complete this mission, we are certainly off to good start. We're at the dawn of a new era in space exploration. There are no precedents for what we're doing here."

It was later reported that the Dragon capsule had successfully separated from the Falcon 9 booster rocket, and deployed its solar panels. There is still a long way to go before the mission is complete, however, which could lead to a huge contract with NASA for SpaceX if deemed successful.

In addition to carrying necessary supplies and equipment for the ISS, the SpaceX launch is carrying some non-ISS cargo, as well. It has been confirmed by Musk that the cargo includes the ashes of several people. Among those are the ashes of James Doohan, or "Scotty," from Star Trek.

Congratulations, Scotty, and since you're up there, can you "beam us up?"

Watch the SpaceX launch below.

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