At 3:44 a.m Eastern time private space company SpaceX successfully launched a Falcon 9 rocket, carrying its Dragon space capsule system toward the International Space Station—the upper stages are even now whirling above your head in a sequence of orbits that'll see a rendezvous with the station in a couple of days. The capsule is carrying non-essential supplies for the astronauts and also a mystery "joke" cargo, continuing a tradition started with earlier tests of the rocket. If all goes well, Dragon is destined to be the first commercial ship to dock with the ISS as part of the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services tests, part of the government's new push for private space vehicles. An earlier launch attempt on Saturday was aborted due to an engine fault at the moment of liftoff, and SpaceX's engineers have demonstrated admirable speed in diagnosing a stuck valve and fixing it in time for today.
Update: As the Dragon capsule continues to perform nominally, it's reported via Mashable that the mystery cargo inside may be the remains of James Doohan—Star Trek's Scotty. One of Doohan's final requests was that his ashes be taken aloft, but until now various barriers have prevented success.
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