New Delhi: The California-based Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, better known as SpaceX, became the first private company to send its own craft Dragon cargo capsule to the International Space Station on Tuesday after fixing an engine problem that grounded its earlier attempt.
The Dragon capsule atop the Falcon 9 rocket is filled with 1,000 pounds of food and other provisions. The Dragon was blasted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida at 3.44 am (0744 GMT), on a mission to carry supplies to the orbiting research outpost.
SpaceX`s first attempt to send its Dragon cargo capsule to the International Space Station ended abruptly Saturday morning when computers aboard the company`s Falcon 9 rocket shut off the craft`s engines just after ignition.
During the final moments of the weekend`s countdown, a flight computer detected slightly high pressures inside the thrust chamber of the vehicle`s fifth engine - one of nine that power the first stage of the ascent - and commanded a shut-down.
Once in orbit, the Falcon rocket will chase down the station and berth with it. After a couple of weeks, the ship will return to Earth with equipment that needs to be repaired. As of now, only government-owned vehicles have been used to run this freight service.
In future, NASA wants to contract out the role to US companies. In a few years, the private sector could even take over the task of ferrying astronauts to and from the station.
NASA hopes these changes will save money that can then be invested in exploration missions far beyond Earth, at destinations such as asteroids and Mars.
"Sending a spacecraft to the space station has only ever been accomplished by four entities - the United States, Russia, Japan and the European Union," an English daily quoted NASA on the eve of Tuesday`s launch attempt.