New SpaceX commercial rocket designed to carry cargo and crew to ISS blasts off.

Saturday, June 5, 2010 - 7:32am

A possible game changer in space transportation blasted off from Florida's Cape Canaveral Friday.

The Falcon 9, a rocket privately developed by SpaceX of California, launched what the company hopes will become a taxi system to and from the International Space Station.

The 180-foot rocket carried a prototype of a capsule called "Dragon" that was released into orbit where it will stay for about a year.

The capsule is designed to hold cargo now, and eventually astronauts.

The test flight follows the obama administration's move to cancel NASA's Constellation program to build the next generation of rockets for human space flight.

The administration wants to shift the business of space station transport to commercial companies that claim they can do it cheaper, sooner and more reliably.

Critics are doubtful and say it's too risky.

"The commercial sector is still walking around like a young kid learning to walk," says former NASA astronaut Gene Cernan. "They don't know what the risks are. They don't know what they don't know."

Since the shuttles used for the past 30 years will soon be retired, the U.S. will rely on renting space from the Russians aboard their Soyuz spacecraft to get to the space station.

Like NASA, SpaceX has had delays and technical problems, but confidence remains high.

"I hope SpaceX will be one of the principal means by which NASA astronauts will go to space," says CEO Elon Musk.

He says it's a promising new beginning for space travel.
 

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