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Powerful, Private Space Rocket

From low-orbit tourism to powerful spacecraft, the influence of privately funded space ventures continues to grow. The California-based company Space X has announced its intention to launch the most powerful space rocket ever by 2014. Dubbed the Falcon Heavy, the rocket will be able to carry 53 tons of payload into orbit, more than any other rocket in existence. The company's influence is already formidable—it already has N.A.S.A. contracts to carry astronauts to the International Space Station—and its rise comes as America's space shuttle program is being decommissioned. But rather than replace government-funded missions, private enterprise will augment their capabilities.

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