SpaceX Dragon capsule lifts off, reaches orbit


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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 spaceship can survive the fiery reentry 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 orbit and reenter 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 reentering 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.

[Updated Wednesday, 11:10 a.m.: SpaceX did not provide a live video feed of reentry or splashdown. Instead, it fed information through Twitter. The company tweeted: ‘SPLASHDOWN!!!’ and ‘SpaceX is the first commercial company to reenter a spacecraft from space!']


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--W.J. Hennigan