SpaceX Ushers in an Age of Private Space Travel

 @ibtimes
on August 16 2011 5:29 AM
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Since NASA has retired its space shuttle program, a private rocket company has stepped in to fill the gap and is in the process of readying a capsule for a liftoff to deliver cargo to the International Space Station.

SpaceX of California is announcing on its Web site it will combine its earlier proposed twin missions (COTS Demo 2 and COTS Demo 3) into a single mission for a scheduled launch Nov. 30.

The Dragon capsule is to berth at the station nine days after the launch. 

 "SpaceX has been hard at work preparing for our next flight - a mission designed to demonstrate that a privately-developed space transportation system can deliver cargo to and from the International Space Station," the company said. "When the astronauts stationed on the ISS open the hatch and enter the Dragon spacecraft for the first time, it will mark the beginning of a new era in space travel."

SpaceX was established in 2002 by Elon Musk, a founder of PayPal and Zip2 Corp.

SpaceX has been privately developing the Dragon crew and cargo capsule and the Falcon family of rockets, including main and upper stage engines, the cryogenic tank structure, avionics, guidance and control software and ground support equipment.

In April NASA awarded Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) $75 million to develop a launch escape system that will enable the company's Dragon spacecraft to carry astronauts. The award is part of the agency's Commercial Crew Development initiative that started in 2009 to help private companies mature concepts and technologies for human space flight.

The average price of a full-up NASA Dragon cargo mission to the International Space Station is $133 million. This price includes the costs of the Falcon 9 launch, the Dragon spacecraft, all operations, maintenance and overhead, and all of the work required to integrate with the Space Station.