SpaceX rocket set to blast off, open new space era

May 19, 2012 By MARCIA DUNN , AP Aerospace Writer
The Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket stands ready for launch at complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Friday, May 18, 2012. The launch, scheduled for early Saturday morning will mark for the first time, a private company will send its own rocket to the orbiting International Space Station, delivering food and ushering in a new era in America's space program. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

A private company is on the verge of making history by launching a spacecraft to the International Space Station.

An unmanned Falcon 9 rocket belonging to the company known as was set to blast off at 4:55 a.m. EDT Saturday. put the odds of at 70 percent. A thunderstorm was reported to the south but was expected to move offshore.

The Falcon holds a capsule called Dragon that is loaded with 1,000 pounds of space station provisions.

"Next time Dragon sees the sun, it should be doing 17,000 mph over the Atlantic," SpaceX Elon Musk said via Twitter as the countdown entered the final hours.

A Saturday launch would put the Dragon in the vicinity of the space station on Monday for a series of practice maneuvers, with the actual docking taking place Tuesday. Only governments have accomplished that to date.

NASA is looking to the private sector to take over flights to orbit in the post-shuttle era. The goal is to get American astronauts launching again from U.S. soil. SpaceX officials said that could happen in as little as three years, possibly four. Several other companies are in the running.

SpaceX - or Space Exploration Technologies Corp. - is based in Southern California. That's where the company's Mission Control is located for this flight and where Musk positioned himself for Saturday's launch attempt.

Musk, a co-creator of PayPal, founded SpaceX a decade ago.

About 1,000 SpaceX and NASA guests poured into the launching area in the wee hours of Saturday, hoping to see firsthand the start of this new commercial era. The company had a single second to get its rocket flying.

Everyone, it seemed, was rooting for a successful flight.

"Go SpaceX," read the sign outside Cape Canaveral City Hall. Until NASA's space shuttles retired last summer, the sign had urged on the launches of Discovery, Endeavour and, finally, Atlantis. Those ships are now relegated to museums.

Explore further: SpaceX rocket launch aborted at last second

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1 / 5 (1) May 19, 2012
Looking forward to SpaceX dealing with technical issues and hopefully updating their website on the reasons for the halt recently and the means to deal with it for the future, thanks :-)

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