SpaceX rocket blasts off from Cape Canaveral - New York News

SpaceX rocket blasts off from Cape Canaveral

.(AP Photo/John Raoux) .(AP Photo/John Raoux)

SpaceX's unmanned Dragon capsule was launched fromCanaveral, Fla.,  on Tuesday as it headed to the International Space Station (ISS).

The two-week mission, which blasted off at around 3:44am ET, will send the first commercial spacecraft to the ISS -- more than 200 miles (320km) above Earth.

It will be a major landmark for SpaceX, a private California company that hopes to restore US access to the ISS after NASA retired its shuttle fleet last year. US astronauts currently are dependent on Russian rockets to journey into space.

The capsule aims to dock with the ISS, allowing astronauts on board to unload supplies and fill it with return cargo. The Dragon craft would then return to Earth, landing in the Pacific Ocean.

The capsule had been due to blast off atop SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket Saturday but was grounded after a faulty part was discovered. There was just half a second before liftoff when one of the rocket's nine engines exceeded a technical limit. Officials quickly identified a single defective valve and were able to replace the part.

If the SpaceX mission proves a success, it will begin to fulfill a 2008 contract with NASA for a minimum of 12 flights carrying supplies to and from the ISS.

With the end of the space shuttles, Dragon is the only spacecraft capable of returning significant cargo. The capsule was also designed to carry astronauts in the future.

On this flight, it will transport 1,014lbs (460kg) of cargo to the ISS and return 1,367lbs (620kg). Because it is a test flight, the cargo will only include food, water and clothing for the astronauts on board the ISS.

After successfully completing its mission, the Dragon capsule will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere and land in the Pacific Ocean some 250 miles (450km) off the US West Coast, where it will be recovered.

 

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