Opening a new, entrepreneurial era in spaceflight, a ship built by a billionaire businessman sped toward the International Space Station with a load of groceries and other supplies after an early Tuesday blastoff.
The launch of the Falcon 9 rocket and its unmanned Dragon capsule marked the first time a commercial spacecraft has been sent to the orbiting outpost.
The rocket lifted off just before 4 a.m. and smoothly boosted the capsule into orbit. The capsule is expected to rendezvous with the space station within days, delivering a half-ton of provisions for its six crew members.
It is considered just a test flight, but if all goes well with this mission and others like it, commercial spaceships could be carrying astronauts to and from the space station in three to five years.
“Falcon flew perfectly!!” billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, founder of the SpaceX company, said via Twitter. “Feels like a giant weight just came off my back.” Musk told reporters: “For us, it’s like winning the Super Bowl.”
Up to now, flights to the space station were something only major governments had done. NASA is looking to the private sector to take over flights to the space station now that the space shuttle has been retired. Several U.S. companies are vying for the opportunity.
“The significance of this day cannot be overstated,” said a beaming NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “It’s a great day for America. It’s actually a great day for the world because there are people who thought that we had gone away, and today says, ‘No, we’re not going away at all.'”
Since the shuttle’s retirement last summer, American astronauts have been hitching rides to the space station aboard Russian rockets, and Russian, Japanese and European ships have been delivering supplies. Yikes, the US astronauts hitch hikers!
Isn’t that a false sense of budget cutting as all the jobs to build those rockets in Russia and Japan are not here at home.
At least space X is here in the good old USA. SpaceX has spent more than $1 billion on the project.
The rocket also blasted into orbit around the Earth the ashes of more than 300 people, including Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper and actor James Doohan, who played Scotty on “Star Trek.” The ashes were in a part of the rocket that was jettisoned during the climb into space.