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Sat, May 19, 2012

NASA Embracing Commercial Space Flight

SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Set To Launch May 19th

The first U.S. commercial space flight is scheduled to launch this week from Cape Canaveral. Commercial launch company SpaceX has built a capsule that will go to the ISS and thus open the era of commercial space flight. The Falcon 9 rocket is on track to launch on Saturday, May 19, with a backup date of May 22. The rocket will carry the Dragon capsule into space, on a mission to deliver supplies of food and water to the International Space Station.

"We've been launching things into space for 50 years," said NASA's Deputy Administrator Lori Garver. "It's time we did trust our industry to be able to lead the way. It is something we do need since the retirement of the space shuttle," Garver said. "This has been our plan for replacing the space shuttle, which was so much larger and built the space station by carrying the modules."

Federal News Radio reports that the Falcon 9 mission is a smaller, much more focused effort that will allow NASA to reduce the cost of space transportation by using the commercial sector.

"We've been working very closely with SpaceX, who is the industry partner on this mission," Garver said, adding that the company has been reviewing all of the flight-readiness activities that used to be NASA's job. "The last couple of times, we came to do this within the last few months, we found specific software testing that needed to continue to be done and now we're through with that," Garver said. "I talked to the folks last night and they are ready."

The launch will usher in a new era of space travel for the U.S., one in which private companies design and build NASA's spacecraft, with the agency acting as just a single customer. Currently, two companies are vying for NASA's cargo delivery contract and four are competing for the crew delivery to the space station. (Pictured: Previous SpaceX Falcon 9 launch)

FMI: www.nasa.gov  www.spacex.com

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