On Tuesday at 3:44am Eastern Time, SpaceX became the first private company to attempt to send a rocket to the International Space Station, a feat that had previously only been the province of governments.
The launch was momentous because it was the first milestone in NASA’s effort to have private companies take over transportation to low-Earth orbit.
“We’re really at the dawn of a new era of space exploration, and one where there’s a much bigger role for commercial companies,” SpaceX founder Elon Musk said at a post-launch news conference.
The Falcon 9 rocket, which carried the Dragon capsule into orbit, launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aiming for a Friday meeting with the International Space Station. There, according to the New York Times, the unmanned Dragon capsule would deliver “162 meal packets (45 of them low-sodium), a laptop computer, a change of clothes for the station astronauts and 15 student experiments.”
It will stay at the station until May 31, when it will transport items back to Earth. If the whole trip is successful, SpaceX will pursue plans to fly 12 cargo missions to the space station. It would also make itself a contender among companies that NASA chooses to transport astronauts, not just cargo, to the station.
The successful launch is significant not just for the broader implications of space travel, but because SpaceX previously experienced three failed launchings and was on the brink of death four years ago. However, after its first successful launching, NASA awarded it the cargo contract.
To see more photos of the launch, click here.
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