PORT CANAVERAL: AN unmanned rocket operated by a private firm launches into orbit in pursuit of the International Space Station from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in the first of a dozen supply runs.

The second launch of a Dragon capsule by SpaceX involved the spacecraft carrying a 1000lb of key science experiments and other vital cargo.

Nasa is relying on private firms to restock the station now that the shuttles have retired.

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The agency has a £1 billion contract with SpaceX for 12 missions, and the Dragon will return with twice as much cargo as it took.

Photo: AP