08/10/2012 09:08 BST | Updated 07/12/2012 10:12 GMT

SpaceX Dragon Lifts Off On International Space Station Mission (VIDEO)

A private space capsule has launched on a mission to resupply the International Space Station for the first time.

The SpaceX Dragon capsule lifted off from Cape Canaveral early on Monday morning.

The unmanned capsule will bring 400kg of supplies to the ISS.

The supplies will include food, clothes and experiments, and is the first of 12 missions that Space X will eventually fly to the space station.

It will return with about twice as much cargo as it left with, mostly scientific research and hardware. Crucially it will be able to return frozen samples, which is a big boon to the scientific community.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp (Space X) has a contract with Nasa that is worth a total of $1.6bn, and is the current replacement for the retired Space Shuttle previously used to restock the ISS.

The company built both the rocket and the resupply capsule for the Commercial Resupply Services mission.

SpaceX Launch

Another company - the Orbital Sciences Corporation - has a $1.9bn contract also to deliver cargo to the station, if a test mission scheduled unofficially for next year goes ahead as planned.

Nasa eventually wants to outsource human transport to space as well, and SpaceX are currently working on systems to do just that.

"Just over one year after the retirement of the space shuttle, we have returned space station cargo resupply missions to US soil and are bringing the jobs associated with this work back to America," NASA administrator Charles Bolden said.

"The SpaceX launch tonight marks the official start of commercial resupply missions by American companies operating out of US spaceports like the one right here in Florida."