"Looking like a bright star streaking up into a black sky, a rocket took off before dawn today from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida carrying an unmanned capsule filled with food, clothes and other supplies for astronauts on the International Space Station.
But this robotic cargo ship doesn't belong to NASA. Instead, it's owned by a company called SpaceX, which made history by launching the first ever private spacecraft on a mission to the station.
SpaceX has a $1.6 billion cargo-delivery contract with NASA, which is turning routine flights to the station over to industry so that the veteran space agency can start to focus on more ambitious exploration efforts.
After the company's capsule, called Dragon, reached orbit and its solar arrays deployed without a hitch, engineers at SpaceX's launch control room in Florida clapped and hugged each other.
Elon Musk, who founded SpaceX in 2002 after making a fortune with the Internet company PayPal, wrote on his Twitter feed: "Feels like a giant weight just came off my back :)"
Musk watched the rocket blast off from his company's mission control in Hawthorne, Calif. "Every bit of adrenalin in my body released at that point," he said later during a post-launch press briefing. "It's obviously an extremely intense moment."
This is the third successful flight in a row for the company's Falcon 9 rocket, and the second test flight of a Dragon capsule. In December 2010, a Dragon capsule orbited Earth twice, then splashed down in the Pacific. . ."