SpaceX Launch Begins Post-Space Shuttle Era

SpaceX, the space transportation company co-founded by PayPal creator Elon Musk, launched its Falcon 9 rocket from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, for a rendezvous with the International Space Station. Its Dragon capsule is carrying a relatively modest 1,000 pounds of supplies. But the trip isn’t so much about supplies as it is demonstrating that SpaceX can replace government-run flights in servicing the ISS.

If the flight’s successful, SpaceX will carry out 12 cargo missions for a $1.6 billion fee. It’s the first time a private carrier has attempted such a task.

On Saturday, the Falcon 9′s engines kicked off but were quickly shut down by computers. Later Musk said the mission could have continued even if the problem — a faulty valve — hadn’t been corrected.

Another interesting note about the flight: The payload contains the ashes of 300 people, including Mercury Astronaut Gordon Cooper and James Doohan, who played Montgomery Scott, chief engineer of the U.S.S Enterprise on the original Star Trek.

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