SpaceX rocket has successful launch

May 22, 2012 at 3:17 PM
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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., May 22 (UPI) -- Cremains of space luminaries and everyday Joes went to the final frontier Tuesday when the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket took off from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

"Success! Falcon 9 delivers Dragon to orbit," SpaceX said in a banner across its Web site Tuesday. The scheduled launch last week was aborted when the flight computer detected slightly high pressure in an engine combustion chamber

The vehicle's first stage performed perfectly Tuesday before separating from the second stage, SpaceX reported, and the second stage successfully put the Dragon spacecraft into its intended orbit.

Actor James Doohan, better known as "Scotty" on the original "Star Trek" series, was among the 308 people whose ashes were sent into space. He died in 2005, and some of his ashes were in a container in the rocket's second stage, ABC News reported.

Also making the flight were the cremated remains of Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper, who piloted the Faith 7 spacecraft, the last flight of Project Mercury in May 1963. He also was command pilot of Gemini 5 in 1965.

Tuesday's launch is the second attempt for Celestis, a space services company, and Space X, which tried to launch Doohan, Cooper and others in August 2008. The rocket and its cargo failed to reach orbit.

SpaceX is a private company that NASA contracts to take cargo to the orbiting outpost and Tuesday's launch was a test to determine whether it could meet its performance promises, ABC News said. The space agency spent a little less than $300 million to fund SpaceX as part of the Commercial Orbital Transportation System.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk acknowledged the importance of the collaboration.

"I would like to start off by saying what a tremendous honor it has been to work with NASA. And to acknowledge the fact that we could not have started SpaceX, nor could we have reached this point without the help of NASA … It's really been an honor to work with such great people," he said following Tuesday's launch.

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