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SpaceX Launch: Falcon 9 Rocket Blasts Off Carrying Dragon Capsule To ISS (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

The Huffington Post  |  By Posted: Updated: 05/22/2012 9:50 am

Second time's a charm.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station early Tuesday morning, carrying the Dragon capsule payload that, if all goes according to plan, will dock with the International Space Station later this week.

This is the first time a private company has attempted to berth a spacecraft with the International Space Station.

This was SpaceX's second attempt to launch the Falcon 9 rocket. A launch planned for early Saturday morning was aborted after abnormally high pressure was detected in one of the engine's combustion chambers, causing the computers to automatically shut down the rocket's nine engines less than one second before liftoff.

Over the next several days, the Dragon spacecraft, which separated from the rocket's second stage fewer than ten minutes after launch, will orbit Earth and undergo maneuverability and system tests to make sure it's fit to dock with the space station.

Then, with NASA's approval, the Dragon capsule, which is carrying about 1,000 pounds of food, clothing and water, will attempt to dock with the ISS on Friday.

“We obviously have to go through a number of steps to berth with the Space Station, but everything is looking really good and I think I would count today as a success no matter what happens with the rest of the mission,” Elon Musk, the CEO and Chief Designer of SpaceX, said at a news conference following the launch, according to press materials.

From Space.com:

The flight is a trial run for SpaceX's plan to deliver cargo, and eventually crew, to the space station. The mission is partially funded by NASA's COTS (Commercial Orbital Transportation Services) program, and the firm has a NASA contract to fly 12 delivery missions to the outpost once test flights are completed.

NASA awarded $381 million to SpaceX as part of a 2006 agreement, according to press materials from the company. SpaceX has spent $1 billion over the last decade, according to the Associated Press.

NASA has also awarded $266 million to Orbital Sciences Corp., a Virginia-based space technology company, which has a goal of launching a rocket and spacecraft by the end of the year.

"Congratulations to the teams at SpaceX and NASA for this morning’s successful launch of the Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida," John P. Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, said in a statement after the launch. "Every launch into space is a thrilling event, but this one is especially exciting because it represents the potential of a new era in American spaceflight."

This post has been updated with comments from Elon Musk.

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  • The Falcon 9 rocket lifted off at 3:44 a.m., carrying the Dragon spacecraft.

  • The Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket is seen during a time exsposure as it lifts off from space launch complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., early Tuesday, May 22, 2012. This launch marks the first time, a private company sends its own rocket to deliver supplies to the International Space Station.(AP Photo/John Raoux)

  • Andre Kuipers, Donald Pettit

    In this April 20, 2012 NASA/European Space Agency photo, Dutch astronaut Andre Kuipers, left, and American astronaut Donald Pettit await the arrival of the SpaceX Dragon supply capsule after its scheduled launch aboard the Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral to the International Space Station. Private rocket maker SpaceX aimed for a Tuesday liftoff after fixing the engine problem that caused a launch abort over the weekend. If launched Tuesday, May 22, the Dragon will reach the space station Thursday and undergo a series of practice maneuvers from more than a mile out. Then on Friday, the capsule will fly within reach of the station's 58-foot robot arm, which will snare it and berth it to the orbiting lab. The arm will be operated by astronauts Pettit,and Kuipers, two of the six station residents. (AP Photo/NASA/European Space Agency)

  • The Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket stands on space launch complex 40 ready for another launch attempt at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Monday, May 21, 2012. After an aborted attempt with a half-second remaining before liftoff last Saturday, SpaceX is set to launch early on Tuesday, May 22. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

  • Photographers set up remote cameras to cover a launch attempt of the Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket at space launch complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Monday, May 21, 2012. After an aborted attempt with a half-second remaining before liftoff last Saturday, SpaceX is set to launch early on Tuesday, May 22. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

  • SpaceX Rocket To Become The First Non-Governmental Vehicle To Reach Int'l Space Station

    TITUSVILLE, FL - MAY 22: SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft atop rocket Falcon 9 lifts off from Pad 40 of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Titusville, Florida. The launch this morning makes SpaceX the first commercial company to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station. (Photo by Roberto Gonzalez/Getty Images)

  • In this Nov. 16, 2011, photo provided by NASA, the SpaceX Dragon capsule is lifted to be placed atop its cargo ring inside a processing hangar at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The first commercial cargo run to the International Space Station has been delayed again for more software testing. Space Exploration Technologies Corp., better known as SpaceX, was aiming for a Monday, April 30, 2012, liftoff of its Falcon rocket and Dragon capsule. But on Wednesday, May 2, the California-based company announced its latest postponement and said a new launch date had not been set. (AP Photo/NASA, Kim Shiflett)

  • CEO of SpaceX And Tesla Motors Makes Announcement On SpaceX's Latest Venture

    WASHINGTON - APRIL 5: Elon Musk, CEO of Space Exploration Technologies Corp, pauses while speaking during a news conference at the National Press Club April 5, 2011 in Washington, DC. Elon Musk, CEO of Space Exploration Technologies Corp (SpaceX) and Tesla Motors, held the news conference to announce SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket which could complete missions to the International Space Station and Moon and should be ready for use by the end of 2012. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

  • CEO of SpaceX And Tesla Motors Makes Announcement On SpaceX's Latest Venture

    WASHINGTON - APRIL 5: Elon Musk, CEO of Space Exploration Technologies Corp, speaks during a news conference at the National Press Club April 5, 2011 in Washington, DC. Elon Musk, CEO of Space Exploration Technologies Corp (SpaceX) and Tesla Motors, held the news conference to announce SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket which could complete missions to the International Space Station and Moon and should be ready for use by the end of 2012. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

  • US President Barack Obama tours SpaceX l

    US President Barack Obama tours SpaceX launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on April 15, 2010. Obama traveled to Florida in a bid to soothe critics of his plan to scrap an over-budget Moon launch program and reshape NASA's future. AFP PHOTO/Jewel SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

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