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Commercial rockets free up NASA resources, official says

NASA

The first commercial space ship rocketed into orbit on Tuesday, marking the start of profit-driven space flight, the Associated Press reports.

The Falcon 9 rocket took off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, carrying a capsule called "Dragon" that holds 1,000 pounds of supplies. The capsule is now en route to the International Space Station, where it will perform a series of complicated maneuvers before astronauts in the station capture and dock the spacecraft using a mechanical arm on Friday.

SpaceX is the first private company to fund such a trip in the post-shuttle days of NASA. The company’s founder, billionaire Elon Musk, tweeted that it flew “perfectly.”

The Obama administration quickly praised the launch. “Every launch into space is a thrilling event, but this one is especially exciting,” John Holdren, Obama’s chief science adviser, told the AP. “This expanded role for the private sector will free up more of NASA’s resources to do what NASA does best — tackle the most demanding technological challenges in space, including those of human space flight beyond low Earth orbit.”

NASA hopes to get more companies funding rocket launches, with the goal of sending American astronauts into space from U.S. soil. SpaceX officials say that could occur in the next three years.

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