SpaceX Sends Cargo-Carrying Rocket to Space Station
The first commercial cargo flight to the International Space Station lifted off on Sunday evening, inaugurating a new era for NASA in which private companies will take over the transportation of people and supplies to low-Earth orbit.
For this launch, only cargo is going; private transportation for astronauts is still several years away. Space Exploration Technologies of Hawthorne, Calif. — SpaceX, for short — launched its Falcon 9 rocket on schedule at 8:35 p.m. Eastern time from Cape Canaveral, Fla.
The rocket is carrying a capsule called Dragon that contains about 1,000 pounds of food, clothing, equipment and science experiments, including 23 designed and built by students. The cargo also includes a freezer that can store laboratory samples at temperatures as low as 300 degrees below zero. The goods are scheduled to reach the space station on Wednesday, and the capsule will stay docked for a few weeks.
“It actually marks the beginning of true commercial spaceflight to take cargo to the International Space Station for us,” Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden Jr., the NASA administrator, said during a video chat on Google Plus on Friday.
SpaceX successfully launched a capsule to the space station in a test flight in May, but Sunday’s launching is the first of a dozen flights under a $1.6 billion contract with NASA.