SpaceX commercial rocket launches successfully. New era in spaceflight?

SpaceX successfully launched its Falcon 9 rocket today. It carries the Dragon capsule they hope will be the first-ever recovery by a commercial company of a spacecraft reentering from low-Earth orbit.

So far, only government agencies have successfully recovered capsules from space. This is the first flight under the U.S. Space agency NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program to eventually deliver supplies to the International Space Station.

NASA plans to retire the Space Shuttle in early 2011, and SpaceX is one of a handful of companies vying to replace the duties performed by the shuttle.

Bad Astronomy blogger Phil Plait on NASA’s future

The Dragon capsule carried by the Falcon 9 rocket launched today was empty, but CNN reports that SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, co-founder of PayPal, said that SpaceX might be ready to fly supplies to the International Space Station by 2011. Still, the successful launch of the Falcon 9 rocket by SpaceX in early December 2010 could be the real herald a new era of commercial space flight, where astronauts and supplies are delivered by commercial rockets and services.

December 8, 2010

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