Falcon 9 second stage engine making the final push to orbit.

Congratulations to everyone at SpaceX for a flawless inaugural flight to orbit of the new Falcon 9 rocket.

SpaceX made a historically very difficult feat look easy: the company launched a payload into orbit on a brand new rocket design on the first try.

The rocket lifted off just before 3 PM ET today from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral after a first launch attempt ended with an abort just seconds after ignition, but before the rocket was released. After what must have been a tense hour and a half, engineers corrected the problem remotely, and again started the countdown with a mere 30 minutes or so remaining in the launch window. The payload, an engineering qualification model of the SpaceX Dragon capsule—one without the heat shield and parachutes of future cargo and astronaut carrying versions—is now in orbit.

This is exactly the kind of home run needed to help quell opposition to President Obama’s proposed new human space flight plan, which calls for chartering flights on private rockets such as the Falcon 9 for sending crew and supplies to the International Space Station after the shuttle retires.

It’s good day for SpaceX, the U.S space program, and all of us who hope for a future in which space travel is truly commonplace.