# Posted: 23 May 2012 13:15
The era of privately-funded space travel was born yesterday with the launch from Cape Canaveral of a rocket developed by the Space X corporation, complete with an unmanned capsule. Destination: the orbiting International Space Station.
The successful blast-off of the Falcon 9 rocket at 3.44 am Florida time marks the beginning a new era for Nasa, which retired its own fleet of space shuttles last year and has been counting on private companies to fill the breach with vehicles capable of taking goods and eventually humans into low orbit.
Still considered a test flight, the capsule on the Falcon, named Dragon, bears 1,000 lbs of cargo for delivery to the space station. If all goes to plan, it will manoeuvre to within a mile of the station on Thursday before moving alongside on Friday, when astronauts on board will attempt to tether it with a robotic arm.
Hitching a ride also yesterday were the ashes of more than 300 people, including those of actor James Doohan who played the role of chief engineer "Scotty" in the original Star Trek television series. Rather than been "beamed up" all the way to the space station, his and all the other human ashes were consigned to a weightless oblivion with the jettisoning of the launch rocket yesterday.