First Private Spaceship Will Dock at ISS

This February, the International Space Station will receive its first privately-built visitor, an unmanned Dragon capsule built by SpaceX, which eventually will carry astronauts aboard.

What's the Latest Development?

Space entrepreneurship is set to have its first real test this February when the private company SpaceX will launch a supply capsule atop its Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Base in Florida. The capsule, which will deliver food and clothing to the six-man crew aboard the International Space Station, was partly funded by NASA in hopes of stimulating private space ventures to bring goods, and eventually astronauts, to and from space now that the space agency's shuttle program has been retired.   

What's the Big Idea?

If the US is to retain an ambitious space program, the initiative must come from the private sector, which can generally deliver goods and services for less money than government-run programs. It is hoped that the new SpaceX capsule will provide an inexpensive replacement to the shuttle program, both by taking American astronauts to and from space (a task which NASA currently outsources to the Russian Soyuz spacecraft) and by returning cargo to Earth from the ISS, which has been impossible since the shuttles were retired. 

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