SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launches successfully for first mission to space station

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched Sunday. Its Dragon spacecraft carried food, experiments and supplies. The mission marks the start of a new era for NASA in which a private company resupplies the International Space Station. Hawthorne-based SpaceX has a contract with NASA for 12 cargo missions.

Stage 1: Launch | Stage 2: Separation | Power up | Maneuvers | Docking | Return to earth | The Dragon spacecraft

The two-stage Falcon 9 rocket with its Dragon capsule launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. Sunday.

After three minutes, the first stage separates and the nose cone drops off; the second stage provides power for an additional six and a half minutes.

The Dragon's primary source of power comes from twin solar arrays, which deploy into position once the capsule is traveling on its own.

Dragon will begin a series of maneuvers controlled from Earth to bring it to within 10 yards behind and below the space station's Earth-facing side.

When docking, astronauts on the space station will use a 57-foot remote arm to grab the capsule and pull it into the docking port.

Three parachutes, each 116 feet in diameter, deploy at about 10,000 feet to slow the Dragon's descent for its landing off the California coast.

The unmanned Dragon is contracted to make a minimum of 12 flights to the space station as part of a $1.6- billion resupply contract with NASA.