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Commercial Space: SpaceX’s DRAGON

The maiden launch of the SpaceX Dragon on the ...

The maiden launch of the SpaceX Dragon on the Falcon 9. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For the first time, a privately-owned shuttle has docked at the International Space Station in a test run on May 25, and making a water landing on the 31st.  The Dragon capsule is being developed by Space Exploration Technologies Corp. to carry cargo both to and from the ISS, with funding from NASA.

The capsule was unmanned, carrying cargo from the space station when it landed in the Pacific off the coast of Baja California last Thursday.  Eventually, SpaceX officials say, the capsule will be able to hold up to seven astronauts on their way to the ISS or back home to Earth, but will probably not carry astronauts until 2015.

COTS 1 Dragon recovery

COTS 1 Dragon recovery (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is important that the capsule survived in its fall back down and not only up.  The Dragon is alone among automated cargo capsules worldwide that does not burn up in its fall back to the Earth, which is obviously necessary when bringing cargo back, especially astronauts.

This is a very important step in the current effort to replace the newly-retired space shuttle program, which are becoming museum pieces as we speak.

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