SpaceX Launch Successful

    The Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket lifts off from space launch complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., early Tuesday, May 22, 2012. This launch marks the first time, a private company sends its own rocket to deliver supplies to the International Space Station.(AP Photo/John Raoux)

    John Raoux / AP Photo

    It’s official: Dragon has launched. The private, unmanned space shuttle built by a California’s SpaceX successfully launched early Tuesday morning from Cape Canaveral, Fla.—the first mission by a spacecraft not commissioned by the government. The Dragon capsule blasted atop SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, and the space station was flying 249 miles above the north Atlantic Ocean as the rocket lifted off, NASA officials said. If the mission is a success, it represents a potential new stage in American space exploration: NASA hopes low-Earth orbits will be privately funded, allowing the space agency to focus on new spacecraft and missions to Mars, as well as asteroids and the moon.

    First private spacecraft to leave U.S. space station.
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