The co-founder of PayPal just launched a rocket, the Falcon 9, which hopes to put a space capsule, the Dragon, into orbit. We're all hoping Elon Musk's rocket works better than PayPal, because NASA wants to use it for missions.
According to the latest reports, the Dragon space capsule successfully reached orbit, which is amazing news for the future of commercial space exploration — and also good news for NASA's plans to keep sending astronauts up into space.
Now that President Obama has proposed canceling NASA's own line of Ares rockets, Elon Musk's company, SpaceX, could be our best hope for a domestic vehicle to get our astronauts up to the International Space Station. NASA wants to spend $1.6 billion on 12 flights using SpaceX rockets for resupply missions to the ISS.
According to Scientific American:
The Falcon 9 is powered by SpaceX's Merlin engine, which runs on liquid oxygen and kerosene rocket fuel. The Falcon 9's first stage boasts nine Merlin engines to lift the more than 300-metric-ton rocket off the ground. After nearly three minutes of flight the first stage separates and falls away as a single Merlin engine takes over to power the upper stage to orbit.
Photos by AP.