SpaceX has successfully launched the first commercial mission to the International Space Station using its Dragon capsule loaded with 400kg (882lb) of supplies.

The vehicle took off on 7 October at 20:55 local time from Kennedy Space Center, Florida. It marks the fifth launch for the Falcon 9, and the third for the Dragon capsule. The mission is the first of twelve flights for NASA, and the first American flight to the ISS since the 2011 retirement of the Space Shuttle.

SpaceX's Dragon capsule on 22 May became the first commercial vehicle to dock with the ISS as part of NASA's commercial orbital transportation services (COTS) development contract.

Unlike the previous flight, which delivered non-critical supplies on the test mission and returned empty, this flight includes crucial spare parts, experiments and food for the ISS and its crew. Dragon will also carry a 769kg payload back to Earth.

Orbital Sciences also won COTS and commercial resupply contracts, but has yet to make the first flight of its Antares launch vehicle or Cygnus capsule. At least one test flight of the system is anticipated before the end of 2012, with resupply missions beginning in early 2013.

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