SpaceX is a private company under contract to NASA to take cargo to the orbiting outpost, and this morning's launch is a test to prove to NASA that the company can fulfill its performance promises. The space agency has spent just under $300 million to fund SpaceX under COTS, the Commercial Orbital Transportation System.
SpaceX picked up the early development costs for its Falcon rocket and Dragon capsule, hoping eventually to score a $1.6 billion dollar contract for regular cargo runs to the space station. One day, it says, it hopes to carry astronauts.
But SpaceX is in business to make money, and if they can pick up cargo on the side, it makes sense financially. The ashes of 308 souls add up to about $1 million -- though 208 of them are make-goods from the previous failed mission.
So in addition to the 1,014 pounds of food and supplies headed to the six astronauts on the space station, there are the spirits of 308 people.