(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) — For the first time in the history of the U.S. space program, a commercial rocket took off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., early Tuesday morning to deliver supplies to the International Space Station (ISS).
The unmanned rocket, dubbed the SpaceX Falcon 9, is topped with the Dragon space capsule and, barring any difficulties, should arrive at the ISS by Friday with a half-ton of food and other supplies.
The capsule is also carrying the ashes of 308 people, including James Doohan, who played Scotty in the original Star Trek series, and American astronaut Gordon Cooper. The ashes are in a cannister that will be jettisoned into space.
Tuesday’s milestone launch is NASA’s first attempt to outsource its missions to privately-funded companies: in this case, Space Exploration Technologies Corp.
Up to now, deliveries in manned rockets have been handled by the U.S., Russia, Japan and the European Union. Last year, NASA retired its shuttle program after 30 years in anticipation of such private and international missions.
SpaceX, a Hawthorne, California-based company, has a $1.6 billion contract with NASA to make 12 trips to the ISS.
Following lift-off, the White House issued a congratulatory statement that declared in part, “Every launch into space is a thrilling event, but this one is especially exciting because it represents the potential of a new era in American spaceflight. Partnering with U.S. companies such as SpaceX to provide cargo and eventually crew service to the International Space Station is a cornerstone of the President’s plan for maintaining America’s leadership in space.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
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