SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launches for the first time

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Artist's conception of the Dragon spacecraft approaching the International Space Station.
Image: NASA.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX), a commercial spaceflight company, has successfully launched its Dragon spacecraft on its maiden voyage to orbit atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida on Wednesday. The launch was followed by a successful landing of the unmanned capsule in the Pacific Ocean hours later.

During its maiden flight, the Dragon capsule completed about two orbits around the Earth and executed successful de-orbiting operations, followed by successful reentry, parachute deployment, and splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Mexico.

The Dragon spacecraft is the first commercial space transport certified to reach orbit and return to Earth. The successful flight of the Dragon spacecraft makes SpaceX the first private firm to launch its own craft to orbit and return it to Earth.

The Dragon spacecraft is part of a contract between the California-based commercial spaceflight company and the United States' space agency, NASA, to provide transport for crews and supplies to and from the International Space Station.