Beautiful launch! Dragon is in orbit. Will provide status updates as available.
That’s the tweet that the California-based company SpaceX sent out after the successful launch of their Falcon 9 rocket today. The rocket has reached orbit carrying its unmanned Dragon cargo capsule.
If all goes as planned, the spacecraft will orbit the earth twice before reentry, deploy parachutes and splash down into the Pacific at 3 p.m. EST.
SpaceX is the first company to receive a Federal Aviation Administration license for orbit and reentry. The mission marks the early stages of an effort to expand private spaceflight in low-earth orbit, a venture supported by the Obama administration. Proponents of the idea say that it could free up funding for NASA to focus on deep space exploration, and possibly a manned trip to Mars.
For more on what this means for commercial spaceflight and NASA’s retiring shuttle program, see this discussion between Senior Correspondent Judy Woodruff and Science Correspondent Miles O’Brien that aired on the NewsHour last month.