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SpaceX to attempt historic private launch to space station this week (+video)

If successful, the unmanned flight will mark the first time a privately built spaceship has docked with the International Space Station.

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The private spaceflight company SpaceX is preparing to launch a robotic capsule to the International Space Station this week, following a series of delays that postponed the historic first flight of a commercial spacecraft to the orbiting outpost.

SpaceX is slated to launch its Dragon capsule to the space station atop the company's own Falcon 9 rocket on May 19 from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Liftoff is set for 4:55 a.m. EDT (0855 GMT).

The test flight was originally scheduled to occur on April 30, but has been delayed several times to complete final checks of the spacecraft's flight software.

The Dragon launch will now occur shortly after three new crewmembers arrive at the orbiting complex. A Russian Soyuz spacecraft, carrying NASA astronaut Joe Acaba and Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin, is slated to blast off from Kazakhstan tonight (May 14), and will arrive at the station on May 17.

The test flight of the unmanned Dragon capsule is designed to assess the spacecraft's ability to carry cargo to the orbiting outpost. If successful, it will mark the first time a privately built spaceship has docked with the $100 billion space station. [Gallery: Dragon, SpaceX's Private Spacecraft]

Over the past few weeks, SpaceX engineers have been preparing the Falcon 9 rocket and testing the capsule's docking software. After Dragon reaches orbit, the spacecraft will embark on a three-day chase of the space station before making its planned rendezvous.

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