Early this morning I followed with great interest Elon Musk’s tweets re the countdown, launch, and trajectory of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. Falcon 9 has successfully carried the Dragon capsule into orbit, and Dragon will dock with the International Space Station on Friday. This is the first private sector mission to the Station, and a key outcome of SpaceX’s success will be a contract for another dozen supply missions.

Falcon 9 soars into space. Click through fo image source.

Falcon 9 soars into space.

Following this morning’s launch, John P. Holdren, Assistant to President Obama for Science and Technology, issued the following statement:

“Congratulations to the teams at SpaceX and NASA for this morning’s successful launch of the Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Every launch into space is a thrilling event, but this one is especially exciting because it represents the potential of a new era in American spaceflight. Partnering with U.S. companies such as SpaceX to provide cargo and eventually crew service to the International Space Station is a cornerstone of the President’s plan for maintaining America’s leadership in space.

“This expanded role for the private sector will free up more of NASA’s resources to do what NASA does best — tackle the most demanding technological challenges in space, including those of human space flight beyond low Earth orbit. I could not be more proud of our NASA and SpaceX scientists and engineers, and I look forward to following this and many more missions like it.”

SpaceX is the brainchild of Elon Musk, who has also co-founded and driven other game-changing ventures such as Paypal, Tesla Motors, and Solar City. My favorite of Elon’s tweets this morning perfectly conveyed the emotions of an entrepreneurial explorer, going where no one has gone before: “Falcon flew perfectly!! Dragon in orbit, comm locked and solar arrays active!! Feels like a giant weight just came off my back.”

Big congratulations to Elon and his team at SpaceX. And congratulations as well to NASA for taking this innovative and potentially powerful new step in space exploration.