SpaceX Dragon becomes first private mission to ISS | News | DW | 22.05.2012
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SpaceX Dragon becomes first private mission to ISS

A private spacecraft blasted off from NASA's Cape Canaveral launch site in Florida early Tuesday, en route to the International Space Station. US firm SpaceX has begun the first private sector ISS resupply mission.

A Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon capsule blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida before dawn on Tuesday, setting off for the International Space Station (ISS) a few days later than initially planned.

"Three, two, one, and launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, as NASA turns to the private sector to resupply the International Space Station," NASA commentator George Diller said as the rocket took off at 3:44 a.m. local time (0744 GMT).

UScompany SpaceX thereby becomes the first firm to send a set of supplies to the ISS, since NASA curtailed its decades-old Space Shuttle program. The Dragon capsule is carrying 1,000 pounds (454kg) in provisions.

The launch was initially scheduled for Saturday but was aborted at the last moment by the launch control computer, which was responding to a reading suggesting excessive pressure in the center engine. A faulty valve was identified as the problem's cause and was subsequently replaced.

The private vessel's major challenges are still ahead of it. After beginning a series of practice maneuvers on Thursday once close to the ISS, the craft is set to attempt to dock with the space station on Friday.

msh/mz (AFP, AP, dpa)