There'll be champagne corks popping at SpaceX today after PayPal founder Elon Musk's dream of a profitable commercial space company moved one step closer.
The company fired its Dragon capsule into orbit using the Falcon rocket system and then successfully deorbited the module and retuned it to earth. It splashed down successfully today in the Pacific ocean of the Mexican coast.
"There's so much that can go wrong and it all went right," Musk said.
"I'm sort of in semi-shock. We would not be here without the help of Nasa, I cannot emphasise that enough."
The Dragon capsule is capable of holding up to six tons of crew or cargo and SpaceX already has a $1.6bn contract with Nasa to use the craft to keep the International Space Station supplied when the Space Shuttle fleet is retired, with billions more up for negotiation in other deals.
"This is really an amazing accomplishment for SpaceX," said Alan Lindenmoyer, NASA's Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Manager.
"Thank you for the early Christmas present."
The splashdown is good news for both parties. Nasa has neither the time nor the ability to supply the ISS by itself and would have had to rely on Russian or European rocketry to ferry supplies and staff.
But the result also shows that private space companies are here to stay. This is the first time a private company has got a craft into orbit and returned it safely, and is the end of an era where only governments made it beyond the gravity well. After a rash of false starts SpaceX looks here to stay.
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