After a dramatic last-second abort early Saturday, SpaceX enjoyed a picture-perfect launch Tuesday morning, with its Falcon 9 rocket delivering the company's Dragon capsule into orbit. NASA's chief called it "the brink of a new future," while SpaceX's founder remarked that "it was like winning the Super Bowl."
With the launch of its Dragon-Falcon spacecraft, the next step is for Dragon to berth with the International Space Station, which will use its Canadian-made robotic arm to guide the capsule in. That's not going to happen for another three days, though, as NASA and SpaceX crews on the ground and the astronauts currently manning the station run numerous tests to acclimate the new supply vehicle.
While the future may very well see the Dragon capsule ferrying up to seven astronauts to orbit, right now it's going to help resupply the station's crew. From NASA:
Dragon is carrying about 1,200 pounds of supplies for the crew of the station and experiments designed by students. The spacecraft can hold 7,300 pounds of material for delivery to the station, but since this is a test flight, the manifest was limited to important but not critical materials. Food and clothing make up the bulk of the supplies.
The Dragon-Falcon liftoff went without a hitch at 3:44 A.M. EDT from Cape Canaveral in Florida. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who was glued to the launch on his Twitter, tweeted: "Falcon flew perfectly!! Dragon in orbit, comm locked and solar arrays active!! Feels like a giant weight just came off my back."
"Every bit of adrenaline in my body released at that moment," Musk said in a NASA statement. "People were really giving it their all. For us, it was like winning the Super Bowl."
"We're now back on the brink of a new future, a future that embraces the innovation the private sector brings to the table," NASA chief Charles Bolden said in the same statement. "The significance of this day cannot be overstated. While there is a lot of work ahead to successfully complete this mission, we are off to a good start."
Down below you can see what folks saw live this morning. NASA also put together this video, which does a good job covering both the SpaceX Dragon mission, as well as how it plugs into the future of the International Space Station.