SpaceX mission begins

SpaceX,
the Hawthorne-based rocket venture, has successfully reached orbit with its
Dragon spacecraft, the company said.

The
company’s massive Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Fla. on
Wednesday at 7:43 a.m. Approximately 10 minutes later, the Apollo-like Dragon
space capsule appeared to reach low Earth orbit. The entire event was streamed
live from the company’s website.

The
live video cut out after Dragon reached orbit. Shortly thereafter the company
tweeted: “Beautiful launch! Dragon is in orbit. Will provide status
updates as available.

It
was a key launch for the company, formally known as Space Exploration
Technologies Corp. The Dragon capsule is considered a contender for the job of
ferrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station after the space
shuttle is retired in 2011.

Now
the company waits to see if the cone-shaped space ship can survive the fiery
re-entry back to Earth. Up to this point only five countries and one intergovernmental
agency have been able to launch a spacecraft and have it successfully re-enter
the Earth’s atmosphere: the U.S., Russia, China, Japan, India and the European
Space Agency.

The
capsule is scheduled to orbit the Earth twice before re-entering the atmosphere
and splashing down around 11 a.m. in the Pacific about 500 miles west of
Southern California. The craft would deploy parachutes to slow its descent.

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