It was quite the night for privately owned SpaceX: For the first time, a US-built, robotic spacecraft is on its way to the International Space Station to deliver cargo. The launch follows a successful May test flight to the ISS. SpaceX's Dragon capsule took off from Cape Canaveral at 8:35pm, propelled by the company's Falcon 9 rocket, Space.com reports. It was a big success for the company, despite a minor hitch: One Falcon 9 engine reportedly shut down as it climbed, but the eight other engines picked up the slack.
The unmanned capsule is due to arrive at the ISS on Wednesday as part of a $1.6 billion partnership with NASA consisting of 12 missions, which are set to bring some 20 metric tons of materials to the station. This particular flight is carrying more than 1,000 pounds of supplies, including a treat for astronauts at the ISS: vanilla ice cream mixed with chocolate sauce. The flight will remain at the station for almost three weeks before returning with 2,000 pounds of stuff, including experiment results and hardware that needs fixing. Prior to this flight, the ISS was being supplied by Russian, Japanese, and European spacecraft, which could only transport items one way; they were designed to burn up upon re-entry. By 2015, SpaceX hopes to take astronauts to space.