Elon Musk's Rocket to Space

He makes cars for Terra firma and now rockets for outerspace

By Scott McGrew
|  Wednesday, Dec 8, 2010  |  Updated 11:51 AM PDT
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Tesla Roadster Unveiled

John Raoux

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from pad 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2010. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

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A victory this morning for SpaceX, the private space exploration company founded by Tesla's Elon Musk.  The company's Dragon space capsule, carried aloft on a Falcon9 rocket, has reached orbit.

The Dragon is capable of carrying astronauts - though this morning it is unmanned.  The expectation is eventually SpaceX will use the Dragon/Falcon platform to carry people and supplies to the International Space Station. 

If SpaceX can bring the capsule safely back to Earth, it will be the first private company to do so in history.  

"Getting this far, this fast, has been a remarkable achievement," NASA's acting director of  commercial spaceflight development, Phil McAlister told the Associated Press. He stressed that it was "very, very difficult."

Only countries (the US, China Russia, Japan, India) and one intergovernmental space agency, the ESA have accomplished such a feat previously.

While the focus right now is on the Dragon, certainly engineers are just as pleased with the performance of the Falcon rocket, which has failed on launch several times previously.

Elon Musk created SpaceX with proceeds from his fortune made at Bay Area-based PayPal.  In addition to SpaceX and Tesla, he is a big investor in solar energy through SolarCity.

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