UPDATE: SpaceX just announced via Twitter that the Dragon successfully splashed down in the Pacific: "SpaceX is the first commercial company to reenter a spacecraft from space!"
Liftoff! As I write this, the Dragon capsule by private space company SpaceX is orbiting the Earth, having been blasted successfully in space by the company's Falcon 9 rocket.
The rise to orbit served as a test run for future resupply flights to the International Space Station. Before today's launch, SpaceX's millionaire founder, Elon Musk, observed that a successful ascent would demonstrate that the Dragon could reach the space station, even if it didn't later re-enter the atmosphere and make its scheduled splashdown in the Pacific. [MSNBC]
Shortly—a little after 2 p.m. Eastern—the capsule is scheduled to conclude its orbits of the planet and attempt reentry. If SpaceX is successful it will become the first private company to accomplish what only government space agencies have achieved to this point. This test is unmanned. But if it and others succeed, SpaceX hopes it will someday soon be blasting humans into space in preparation for trips to the ISS.
The rocket is a pipsqueak compared with the space shuttle it will partially replace - measuring 157 feet with the capsule and weighing 735,000 pounds. The much larger shuttle was needed to fly parts up to the $100 billon international space station, but the fleet is being retired because of its age and because its job is largely done. [Washington Post]
has links to images from Dragon's on-board camera. We'll update you when the capsule attempts its reentry. Related Content: 80beats: SpaceX Gets First Commercial Permit to Make Orbital Round-Trips
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