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Dublin: 17 °C Saturday 20 September, 2014

Second time lucky: NASA launches SpaceX rocket headed for ISS

Saturday’s first attempt at a launch was abandoned after engine trouble – but no such problems this time, with a payload of food – and 300 temporarily spacebound astronomy buffs.


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IT WAS A CASE of second time lucky this morning as NASA began its first foray into the use of private sector spacecraft to send materials to the International Space Station, 400km above the surface of the earth.

After the first launch attempt of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was abandoned on Saturday, as a result of an engine fault, the craft was successfully launched into orbit at 8:44am Irish time this morning.

The operation is the first time that NASA has used the services of a private company to send food and other supplies to the ISS; the move to private offerings was prompted by the retirement of the Space Shuttle fleet, which leaves it with no active spacecraft of its own.

The Falcon 9 isn’t just carrying supplies for the ISS though: it’s also taking the ashes of 300 cremated astronomy enthusiasts, whose remains are being transported in lipstick-sized vials.

Among them is actor James Doohan, who played engineer Montgomery Scott in the original Star Trek TV series.

Their ashes were contained in a 14-foot capsule which was shed from the rocket shortly into its flight; that capsule will orbit Earth for the next year or so before being incinerated as its succumbs to gravity on its way back.

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