A commercial cargo ship rocketed into orbit Sunday from Cape Canaveral in pursuit of the International Space Station, the first of a dozen supply runs under a mega-contract with NASA. It was the second launch of a Dragon capsule by the SpaceX company.
SpaceX, also known as Space Exploration Technologies Corporation,is a space transport company headquartered in Hawthorne, California. SpaceX was founded in 2002 by former PayPal entrepreneur Elon Musk.
In 2006, NASA awarded the company a Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) contract to design and demonstrate a launch system to resupply cargo to the International Space Station (ISS). On December 9, 2010, at the launch of the COTS Demo Flight 1 mission, SpaceX became the first privately-funded company to successfully launch, orbit and recover a spacecraft.
On May 22, 2012, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket carried the unmanned Dragon capsule into space, marking the first time a private company has sent a spacecraft to the space station. The unmanned, cone-shaped capsule became the first privately built and operated vehicle to dock with the ISS.
NASA recently awarded SpaceX a contract to develop and demonstrate a human-rated Dragon as part of its Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program to transport crew to the International Space Station (ISS). SpaceX is planning its first crewed Dragon/Falcon9 flight in 2015, when it expects to have a fully certified, human-rated launch escape system incorporated into the spacecraft.
SpaceX also launched a low earth orbiting satellite for a paying customer with its Falcon 1 booster in 2009.
The company has aspirations to be participants in a permanent presence on Mars.