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SpaceX Launches $1.6B NASA Contract With Falcon 9, Dragon Capsule: Orbital Sciences' Antares, Boeing, Lockheed Martin Join Space Race

By Kevin Li staff@sciencetimes.com | Jul 16, 2014 01:06 AM EDT

Flying from Cape Canaveral in Florida, the Falcon 9 and its SpaceX Dragon capsule were successfully launched last Friday, April 18 at 3:25 pm or 1925 GMT to the International Space Station (ISS).

The SpaceX Dragon capsule separated from the second phase of the rocket around 10 minutes after it lifted off and before going into course. The launch marked its fourth visit to the ISS and the third trip of the capsule.

The spacecraft is carrying about 2.2 tons of supplies for the orbiting laboratory that consists of food, spacewalking gear, legs for the resident robot station, supplies, mating fruit flies, equipment and other supplies as needed by the astronauts. It also brought family care packages for the six space men.

At present, SpaceX has a $1.6B contract with NASA to send off the unmanned Dragon cargo ships to the ISS. The launch, according to SpaceX, amounted to about $5 billion including the commercial satellite owners' money and bookings.

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SpaceX Dragon has started to get some competition. For the first time, the Antares rocket was launched by Orbital Sciences at 4 p.m. CDT from Wallops Flight Facility of NASA in Virginia. A competitor of SpaceX's Dragon, Antares is carrying the Cygnus cargo capsule dummy version and "experimental small-scale satellites" made from cheap smartphone parts.

Other competitors of the SpaceX Dragon include the following companies:

  •  Andrews Cargo Module from Andrews Space
  •  Automated Transfer Vehicle from Boeing
  •  Orbital Transfer Vehicle from PlanetSpace
  •  ARCTUS from SpaceHab
  •  K-1 from Rocketplane Kistler
  •  S-550 Space capsule from Venturer Aerospace
  •  Dream Chaser from SpaceDev
  •  Crew Transfer Vehicle from t/Space
  •  Progress from Constellation Services International
  •  ATV, H-II Transfer Vehicle from Lockheed Martin
  •  SpaceVan from PanAero
  •  Space Tug from Space Systems/Loral

Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) is a space transport service company. Established in 2002 by Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors and the former PayPal entrepreneur, it is situated in Hawthorne, California and was built with the objective of decreasing the costs of space transportation and to facilitate the colonization of the planet Mars. The company has developed the launch vehicles Falcons 1 and 9. Its Dragon spacecraft is not only intended to transport cargo, but also to bring human beings to the ISS and other destinations.

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