SpaceX is continuing to pioneer the era of commercial space exploration, for better or for worse, and has now launched its first official resupply mission headed for the International Space Station. This will be the first time a private spacecraft is used in an actual mission to the ISS.
The Dragon module, which has already docked with the ISS once, a few months back in a historic but experimental mission, carried by the Falcon 9 rocket, is now in low Earth orbit after successfully launching at 00:35 UTC from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
It arrived in orbit 15 minutes later. The actual ascent tool a bit over 9 minutes. Dragon is now circling the Earth, 200km, 124 miles above it, and will have to rise to about 330km, 205 miles to meet the ISS, which will drop from its current altitude of over 400km, 248 miles.
"Falcon 9 rocket booster has delivered Dragon to its target orbit!," SpaceX's billionaire founder and CEO Elon Musk tweeted just after the fact.
This is the first of a series of 12 planned Cargo Resupply Missions (CRS) that SpaceX will be carrying out as part of a contract with NASA. The contract is worth some $1.6 billion, €1.23 billion.
Dragon still has a couple of days of going round our planet before docking with the ISS. This will be the second Dragon berthing with the ISS, the first one back in May went without a hitch.
Dragon will then be filled with stuff that needs to be taken away from the ISS, broken or unneeded equipment and experiments that have run their course and must be sent back for analysis.
Blood and urine samples from several of astronauts that have been aboard will also be sent back. Those have been waiting in a freezer on the ISS since the last shuttle, Atlantis, docked with the station.
Dragon is unique among current ships able to dock with the station in its capability to retrieve stuff since it's not destroyed on re-entry, it's a reusable spacecraft.