This week Space Exploration Technologies, known as SpaceX, will make history with the launch of the Dragon cargo capsule aboard a Falcon 9 rocket. It will be the first attempt by a commercial company to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station, a feat previously performed by only a handful of government agencies.
The launch, scheduled for Saturday, May 19, from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, is ambitious endeavor, and SpaceX warns that "success is not guaranteed." In a more can-do vein, the company also said that "if any aspect of the mission is not successful, SpaceX will learn from the experience and try again."
The unmanned mission, expected to last about 21 days, will be the first privately built and funded spacecraft rendezvous with the space station. If successful, the mission is expected to pave the way toward regular operational commercial cargo missions to space, opening a new chapter in space exploration.
Editors' note: This slideshow was originally published May 1 at 8:57 a.m. PT. It has been expanded with additional photos and updated information.