SpaceX Falcon 9/Dragon launch succeeds: first commercial company ever to send spacecraft to ISS

The Falcon 9 rocket's engines ignite on the SpaceX launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, May 22, 2012. Photo: SpaceX

Before dawn today at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, SpaceX successfully launched its Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon spacecraft to orbit. The mission makes SpaceX the first commercial space flight firm to attempt to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station. Next, the vehicle will undergo a series of tests to assess whether it is ready to berth with the ISS. From the company announcement:

The vehicle's first stage performed nominally before separating from the second stage. The second stage successfully delivered the Dragon spacecraft into its intended orbit. This marks the third consecutive successful Falcon 9 launch and the fifth straight launch success for SpaceX.

"We obviously have to go through a number of steps to berth with the Space Station, but everything is looking really good and I think I would count today as a success no matter what happens with the rest of the mission," [SpaceX founder and chief designer Elon] Musk said.

Video here. SpaceFlightNow has extensive coverage. For background, check out Miles O'Brien's recent piece on PBS NewsHour, which includes a visit to the SpaceX factory and an interview with Musk.