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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Friday, April 18, 2014. The rocket is carrying supplies to the International Space Station. / Craig Bailey, Florida Today

MELBOURNE, Fla. -- A SpaceX cargo capsule is on its way to an Easter Sunday rendezvous with the International Space Station after a Friday afternoon blastoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

SpaceX's 208-foot Falcon 9 roared from its pad at 3:25 p.m. EDT with 1.3 million pounds of thrust, disappearing into overcast skies about 80 seconds after liftoff.

Ten minutes later the Dragon capsule separated from the rocket's upper stage, deployed power-generating solar arrays and began to chase down the station.

The Dragon is expected to arrive with nearly 5,000 pounds of cargo early Sunday, when two of six ISS crew members will grapple the spacecraft with a robotic arm and pull it to a docking port.

The successful launch came on the mission's second attempt, after a rocket valve scrubbed a try on Monday.

Stormy weather this Friday morning gradually improved and turned out to be no concern at launch time.

The mission is SpaceX's third of at least 12 under a $1.6 billion NASA contract to resupply the station.

SpaceX also attempted to land its first stage booster softly in the Atlantic Ocean on Friday and recover it with a ship. The company reported that engines fired to complete the first of two re-entry and landing burns, but it was not yet known if the booster returned intact.

The experiment is part of SpaceX's effort to develop a reusable booster that can return to land and be flown again.

With Friday's launch and the Dragon's Sunday berthing, ISS crew members will now plan to perform a spacewalk Wednesday to repair a failed computer relay system.



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

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