Cookie consent

We use cookies to improve your experience on this website. By continuing to browse our site you agree to our use of cookies. Tell me more | Cookie preferences

First official commercial cargo flight heading to International Space Station

SpaceX rocket lifts off

    Just Watched

    SpaceX rocket lifts off

SpaceX rocket lifts off 01:04

Story highlights

  • The SpaceX president says it was "just awesome"
  • The SpaceX rocket launches on schedule at 8:35 p.m. ET Sunday
  • It's the first of a dozen commercial cargo flights under a contract with NASA
  • The Dragon capsule is carrying 1,000 pounds of supplies to the ISS

The SpaceX rocket, the first official commercial flight to the International Space Station, lifted off Sunday night carrying an unmanned cargo capsule.

The Falcon 9 rocket with its Dragon capsule launched on schedule at 8:35 p.m. ET from Cape Canaveral, Florida, with an orange blaze against the black night sky. About 10 minutes into the flight, the Dragon separated from the rocket and was on its way to the station.

Mission control called it "a picture-perfect launch and a flawless flight of Falcon."

It is is the first of a dozen NASA-contracted flights to resupply the International Space Station, at a total cost of $1.6 billion.

"It's a great evening," said SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell after the launch. "It's just awesome."

Rocks on Mars suggest water existed

    Just Watched

    Rocks on Mars suggest water existed

Rocks on Mars suggest water existed 02:36
Dad sends son's toy train to space

    Just Watched

    Dad sends son's toy train to space

Dad sends son's toy train to space 01:36

The launch comes nearly five months after a demonstration mission in which a Dragon capsule successfully berthed at the station and returned to Earth. Shotwell said the Sunday mission isn't "substantially different" from that flight, "with the exception that we got there once."

U.S. astronaut to fly aboard Russian craft

The unmanned capsule is packed with about 1,000 pounds of cargo -- everything from low-sodium food kits to clothing and computer hard drives. It's scheduled to return in late October with about 2,000 pounds of cargo, including scientific experiments and failed equipment that can be repaired and sent back, ISS Program Manager Mike Suffredini said.

"These flights are critical to the space station's sustainment and to begin full utilization of the space station for research and technology development," he said.

The Dragon spacecraft is supposed to catch up with the space station early Wednesday. Station Commander Sunita Williams and Aki Hoshide from the Japanese Space Agency will use the robotic arm to grab Dragon and berth it to the station.

Mars rover gets to play in the sand

Much of Dragon's cargo is material to support extensive experimentation aboard the space station. One deals with plant growth. Plants on Earth use about 50% of their energy for support to overcome gravity. Researchers want to understand how the genes that control that process would operate in microgravity -- when objects are in free-fall in space. Down the road, that could benefit food supplies here on the planet.

Photo: SpaceX the 'beginning of a new era'

The spacecraft is also carrying nearly two dozen microgravity experiments designed and being flown through the Student Experiment Spaceflight Program.

SpaceX is not the only commercial company in the spacefaring business. Within the next few months, Orbital Sciences is expected to fly its own demonstration flight to the space station. Instead of using Cape Canaveral as its launch site, the company's rocket will take off from Wallops Island off the coast of Virginia.

Orbital has a nearly $2 billion contract with NASA for station resupply missions.

Shuttle makes final landing

SpaceX founder Elon Musk is looking well beyond just these cargo flights to the station. SpaceX is one of three companies NASA has selected to continue work developing a human-rated spacecraft that would carry astronauts to the International Space Station.

Boeing and Sierra Nevada are the other two companies.

The SpaceX plan is to modify the Dragon capsule to carry people.

NASA Administror Charles Bolden praised Sunday's launch as an example of private industry's capability. By hiring private companies to conduct the resupply missions, he said, NASA can focus on exploring even deeper in the solar system, including missions to an asteroid and to Mars.

      CNN Recommends

    • pkg clancy north korea nuclear dreams_00002004.jpg

      As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
    • Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
    • pkg rivers uk football match fixing_00005026.jpg

      Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
    • No Eiffel Towers, Statues of Liberties, Mt. Rushmores, Taj Mahals, Aussie koalas or Chairman Maos.

      It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.