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SpaceX readies for manned flights
By Jerry Brownstein
The US has not sent an astronaut into space since the Space Shuttle was retired in 2011, but that will soon change. SpaceX, a California-based company founded by the billionaire Elon Musk, has sent a manned mission to the International Space Station in July 2019. A recent test launch of the ‘Crew Dragon’ capsule that will carry the astronauts went perfectly, and all systems are ‘Go’. In this test the unmanned SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida and brought supplies to the Space Station orbiting 400 km above the Earth.
SpaceX has carried supplies and equipment to the Space Station dozens of times on its fleet of reusable Falcon 9 booster rockets and cargo capsules. Expanding this to carrying humans is a big step, and will be the first time that it has been done by a private company. Since the retirement of the space shuttles, NASA has had to pay its former space race adversary Russia to ferry American astronauts to the Space Station aboard ageing Soyuz rockets. But they are now ready to hand over the development and construction of near-Earth spacecraft to SpaceX and other private companies. NASA will concentrate on deeper space ambitions such as the moon and Mars.