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WE HAVE LIFTOFF SpaceX Launch Successful John Raoux / AP Photo

SpaceX Launch Successful

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.

May 22, 2012 6:00 AM