Space Exploration Technologies Corp. early Tuesday launched a long-awaited mission to send the first private space craft to the International Space Station.

The Hawthorne commercial rocket and spacecraft firm founded by technology mogul Elon Musk said that its Dragon capsule is filled with 1,000 pounds of food and other provisions, and is being carried to the space station atop the company’s Falcon 9 rocket.

A planned Saturday lift off from Cape Canaveral, Fla. was scrubbed for technical reasons.

“This mission heralds the dawn of a new era of space exploration, one in which there is a significant commercial space element,” said Musk in a press conference after the launch. “It is like the advent of the Internet in the mid-1990s when commercial companies entered what was originally a government endeavor. That move dramatically accelerated the pace of advancement and made the Internet accessible to the mass market. I think we’re at a similar inflection point for space.”

The Dragon spacecraft will reach the space station on Thursday, undergo a series of practice maneuvers and then be retrieved by the station's 58-foot robot arm on Friday. The spacecraft is scheduled to detach from the space station on May 31 and return to Earth, landing in the Pacific Ocean hundreds of miles west of Southern California.

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