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Private company helps launch new NASA mission

NASA has launched its first supply mission that is funded by a private company. The US space organization sent cargo to the International Space Station on Sunday via a capsule owned by the company SpaceX.

The Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral Florida at 8:35 pm (00:35 GMT), beginning its three day journey to the International Space Station (ISS).

"Everything worked well, the weather stayed good -- that was the one concern," aerospace consultant Jeff Foust told the news agency AFP.

The dragon capsule on the Falcon 9 rocket is to deliver about 1,000 pounds (455 kilograms) of supplies to the ISS on Wednesday.

Watch video 01:17

NASA's new supply mission

NASA sent a similar rocket to the ISS in May on a test run. Sunday's launch is the first of 12 planned missions co-sponsored by the private company SpaceX as part of a $1.6 billion (about 1.2 billion euros) contract with NASA.

Compared to the early summer test-run, Foust said Sunday's launch showed improvement.

"Clearly they're getting a more mature system there that is working very well," he said.

Since retiring its fleet last year, NASA has had to rely on Russia's space agency to reach the ISS. The US space agency's shift to a reliance on commercial backing reportedly signals a new era in space travel.

The capsule is scheduled to splash down off the California coast on October 28 with several hundred pounds of scientific tests and results.

kms/lw (AFP, dapd)

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