SpaceX, a space transport company, launched a cargo ship into orbit bound for the International Space Station on Sunday. The trip is the first of a dozen supply runs under a mega-contract with NASA, according to the Associated Press.
The Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket launched from complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla. carrying 1,000 pounds of key science experiments and other high priority gear. In addition to the work load, there were also reports of chocolate-vanilla swirl ice cream being tucked in a freezer for the three station residents.
The unmanned Falcon rocket roared southwest of Tasmania on time Sunday night, putting SpaceX on track to reach the space station Wednesday.
Despite a problem with one of the nine first-stage engines, the launch was declared a success after the rocket put Dragon in its intended orbit, billionaire founder and chief executive officer of SpaceX, Elon Musk, told reporters.
"It's driving its way to station, so that's just awesome," noted SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell.
NASA is counting on the joint effort with the Hawthorne, Calif., based company to restock the space station, now that the shuttles have retired to museums. The space agency has a $1.6 billion contract with SpaceX for 12 resupply missions, the AP reports.
The space administration is also counting on Dragon to deliver twice as much cargo as it took up. The additional freight is said to include a stockpile of astronauts' blood and urine samples. The samples — nearly 500 of them — have been stashed in freezers since Atlantis made the last shuttle flight in July 2011.
Flight plans set for the Dragon consist of three weeks at the space station before being released and parachuting into the Pacific at the end of October. By then, the space station should be back up to a full crew of six.
The company, which was founded in 2002 by former PayPal entrepreneur Elon Musk, is working to convert its unmanned Dragon capsules into vessels that could carry astronauts to the space station in three years.
According to the AP, while other U.S. companies also are vying to carry crews, Americans must ride Russian rockets to orbit in the meantime, for a steep price.
The capsule's Dragon is reportedly named after the magical Puff to get back at critics who, a decade ago, considered Musk’s effort a fantasy. The name Falcon comes from the Millennium Falcon starship of "Star Wars" fame.
SpaceX is shooting for its next supply run in January.