Falcon 9 test rocket launches - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

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Falcon 9 test rocket launches

Updated: Friday, 04 Jun 2010, 3:34 PM EDT
CAPE CANAVERAL (FOX 13) -

President Obama's proposed space plan got a boost Friday -- literally. SpaceX's Falcon 9, a test rocket that may one day replace the space shuttles, successfully lifted off from Cape Canaveral.

The gleaming white 158-foot-tall rocket blasted off into surprisingly blue Florida skies at 2:45 p.m. -- just 15 minutes before the launch window closed for the day and over an hour after a last-second abort during an earlier try.

SpaceX's CEO, Elon Musk, said later that the dummy spacecraft on top of the rocket achieved a nearly perfect orbit 155 miles up.

A spokesperson called it a "good day" for the company, which was founded eight years ago by Musk, who made millions as the co-founder of the internet company PayPal. Since then, he's turned his attention to reducing the cost of going to space, and landed a NASA contract in the meantime.

SpaceX is often held up as the best example of President Obama's plan to privatize many of the duties currently performed by NASA. The space shuttle fleet is scheduled to be retired in a matter of months, and if the White House gets its way, private companies like SpaceX will take over the launching of supplies and even astronauts to the space station.

Musk gave Obama a personal tour of the launch site back in April when the president visited the Cape to outline his plan.

Musk said Thursday that he expects his spacecraft to be ready to deliver supplies to the orbiting outpost by next year, and he expects to be able to ferry astronauts within three years of receiving the word from NASA.

Friday's launch nearly happened at 1:30 p.m., but the countdown was stopped with only one second left when computers detected a problem with the engines. That problem was quickly fixed and the rocket blasted off less than two hours later.

SpaceX hopes to launch a second Falcon 9 later this summer.

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