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First ever commercial space cargo flight takes off

22 May 2012 Last updated at 20:05 BST

The head of Nasa has hailed a "new era" in exploration after the launch of the first cargo delivery to the space station by a private company.

The Falcon rocket, topped by an unmanned Dragon freight capsule, lifted clear of its Florida pad at 03:44 EDT (07:44 GMT; 08:44 BST).

The launch system has been built by California-based firm SpaceX.

The BBC's Science Correspondent Pallab Ghosh explains.