Space Exploration Technologies, a California company known as SpaceX, said Sunday it has successfully launched a privately financed rocket into Earth orbit.
On its fourth launch, the privately developed SpaceX Falcon 1 rocket has achieved sweet success at last, said the company.
The booster blasted off from Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands, on Sunday and reached orbit after a 9.5-minute flight.
The payload for this demonstration test launch, a 364-pound (165 kg) mass designed to simulate a satellite, will remain attached to the second stage, according to the company.
It was "definitely one of the best days of my life," SpaceX founder Elon Musk said.
The company had failed on three previous attempts. The most recent Falcon 1 attempt on Aug. 2 had an apparently perfect launch from Kwajalein Atoll before reaching an altitude of 135 miles (216km).
But the rocket failed to reach orbit when an unanticipated performance of the new engine type being used on the flight prevented the rocket's second stage from separating safely from the first stage.
It was a high-profile failure. In addition to a satellite for the Department of Defense, the rocket carried the ashes of more than 200 people, including astronaut Gordon Cooper and James Doohan, the actor who played "Scotty" on "Star Trek."
SpaceX is bidding to provide a much lower-cost path to orbit for private industry and researchers.
An infusion of private capital gives the company the capacity to keep trying to prove that the Falcon design can reach orbit for as little as one-tenth the current cost of commercial launches.
The company hopes that later designs in its Falcon series will launch resupply missions to the International Space Station.
Musk, chief executive of SpaceX, founded SpaceX in 2002 after selling high-tech firm PayPal to eBay for 1.5 billion dollars.
With the successful launch of Falcon 1, the California-based company has become the first company in the world to launch a privately developed, privately financed rocket into Earth orbit.