SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft starting its CRS-9 mission blasting off atop a Falcon 9 rocket (Image NASA)

A few hours ago SpaceX Dragon spacecraft blasted off atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral in its CRS-9 (Cargo Resupply Service 9) mission, also referred to as SPX-9. After almost ten minutes it separated successfully from the rocket’s last stage and went en route. This is the ninth mission to send the Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station with various cargoes and then return to Earth, again with various cargoes.

SpaceX Red Dragon spacecraft on Mars' surface (Image courtesy SpaceX. All rights reserved)

SpaceX announced plans to send its first commercial mission to the planet Mars as early as 2018. In Elon Musk’s company’s plans, the journey will be carried out automatically by the Red Dragon spacecraft, a variant of the Dragon 2. The Red Dragon will be launched atop a Falcon Heavy rocket, the version of SpaceX rocket with two additional boosters. NASA will provide technical support but will not fund the mission.

The Dragon spacecraft captured by the International Space Station's robotic arm (Image NAAS TV)

A little while ago the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft was captured by the robotic arm Canadarm2 on the International Space Station. Tim Peake, assisted by his fellow astronaut Jeff Williams, managed the operation and started moving the Dragon to the berthing point at the Harmony module. The spacecraft was launched last Friday and arrived a little more than 20 minutes later than scheduled because it was slowed down by atmosphere drag but eventually the first leg of its mission was accomplished.