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Mon, Apr 30, 2007

SpaceX Gets New Pad At Cape Canaveral

Granted 5-Year License To Launch Rockets

The USAF announced Thursday that Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has been granted a five-year license to launch rockets from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL.

SpaceX, a company whose philosophy is that simplicity, low-cost, and reliability can go hand in hand, will now have launch facilities on both coasts, reports Reuters. That is a requirement to vie for the US government's largest launch contracts, while an added benefit to clients, with the ability to offer a wider range of launch location options.

SpaceX currently has launch facilities at Vandenberg Air Force Base in CA, and Omelek Island in the central Pacific's Kwajalein Atoll, part of the Marshall Islands.

The new Florida launch site will help the company compete with Orbital Sciences, Dulles, VA. Founded in 1982, Orbital Science began with the goal of making space technology more affordable, accessible, and useful to millions of people on Earth. Orbital Sciences has since grown to become the world's leading developer and manufacturer of smaller, more affordable space and rocket systems.

Additional, larger rocket competition may come SpaceX's way with Europe's Arianespace and the United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

Gen. Kevin Chilton, commander of Air Force Space Command, hailed the pact with SpaceX, the brainchild of Elon Musk, co-founder of PayPal, a Web-based electronic payments system that was sold to eBay for $1.5 billion.

"These types of agreements encourage entrepreneurial space achievement which can benefit both the (Department of Defense) and commercial space industries," Chilton said in a statement.

Under the initial license, the government retains the right to let others share in the use of Space Launch Complex 40, a deactivated Titan IV launch pad.

SpaceX, based in El Segundo, CA, must pay for all improvements, construction, and maintenance associated with its operations there.

Said Marco Caceres of the Teal Group aerospace consultancy in Fairfax, VA, the Cape Canaveral launch deal is "kind of like (the Air Force) saying 'we believe in you and we want you to be part of our team,'"

SpaceX was one of two winners in August of a combined $500 million NASA cargo contract aimed at cutting the cost of reliable space transport.

Musk, who has said he is dedicated to making earthlings a spacefaring civilization, is workig towards shipping things into space for a third or less of the going rate.

FMI: www.spacex.com, www.patrick.af.mil

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