FAA Awards SpaceX First Ever Commercial License to Re-Enter Spacecraft from Orbit

November 23, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Commercial Space Flight 

Hawthorne, CA – Since the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation was created in 1984, it has issued licenses for more than 200 launches.

On Monday, November 22nd, the FAA made SpaceX the first-ever commercial company to receive a license to re-enter a spacecraft from orbit.

Next month, SpaceX is planning to launch its Dragon spacecraft into low-Earth orbit atop a Falcon 9 rocket. The Dragon capsule is expected to orbit the Earth at speeds greater than 17,000 miles per hour, reenter the Earth’s atmosphere, and land in the Pacific Ocean a few hours later.

This will be the first attempt by a commercial company to recover a spacecraft reentering from low-Earth orbit. It is a feat performed by only 6 nations or governmental agencies: the United States, Russia, China, Japan, India, and the European Space Agency.

It is also the first flight under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program to develop commercial supply services to the International Space Station and encourage the growth of the commercial space industry. After the Space Shuttle retires, SpaceX will make at least 12 flights to carry cargo to and from the International Space Station as part of a Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract for NASA. The Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft were designed to one day carry astronauts; both the COTS and CRS missions will yield valuable flight experience towards this goal.

The license is valid for 1 year from the date of issue.

About SpaceX

SpaceX is developing a family of launch vehicles and spacecraft that will increase reliability and performance of space transportation, while ultimately reducing costs by a factor of ten. With the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 rockets, SpaceX has a diverse manifest of launches to deliver commercial satellites to orbit. After the Space Shuttle retires, the Falcon 9 and SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft will start carrying cargo, including live plants and animals, to and from the International Space Station for NASA. Falcon 9 and Dragon were developed to one day carry astronauts.

Founded in 2002, SpaceX is a private company owned by management and employees, with minority investments from Founders Fund, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, and Valor Equity Partners. The company has over 1,100 employees in California, Texas and Florida. For more information, and to watch the video of the first Falcon 9 launch, visit the SpaceX website at SpaceX.com.

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Deficit Commission Errs, “Illustrative Cut” Would Outsource Human Spaceflight to Russia

Washington, D.C., Wednesday, November 10, 2010 – The Commercial Spaceflight Federation, representing 37 companies employing thousands of Americans nationwide, released a statement opposing in the strongest possible terms the “illustrative cut” to commercial spaceflight put forth today by the co-chairs of the Deficit Commission.

“This proposed cut would have disastrous consequences for NASA and the Nation. Commercial Crew now represents the primary means of transporting U.S. astronauts to orbit following retirement of the Space Shuttle. Commercial Crew will in fact result in substantial cost savings to the U.S. taxpayer. Eliminating Commercial Crew would result in total reliance on Russia to get to the Space Station and result in the loss of thousands of high-tech jobs here in the United States,” stated Bretton Alexander, President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation.

Alexander added, “The bottom line is that elimination of NASA’s Commercial Crew program will cede human spaceflight to Russia. Commercial Crew is the fastest way to reduce the gap following Shuttle retirement, minimizing the time we are dependent on buying seats from the Russians. Some commercial providers have publicly committed to significant cost savings on a per-seat basis as compared to the Russian alternative.

“Moreover, the Deficit Commission also appears to misunderstand the very nature of the Commercial Crew Program. Rather than being ‘a subsidy to the private sector,’ the Commercial Crew program is fulfilling an essential national need by developing the next U.S. spacecraft to take astronauts to the Space Station, while stimulating markets beyond government as well. It is, in fact, a win-win for the American taxpayer.

“Last year, an independent blue-ribbon commission headed by Norm Augustine recommended to President Obama that NASA partner with the private sector on the development of its next manned spacecraft. Since then, groups including 25 former NASA astronauts and 14 Nobel laureates have all endorsed the Commercial Crew Program. The deficit commission couldn’t have gotten this more wrong – this is a program NASA cannot afford to do without,” Alexander concluded.

About the Commercial Spaceflight Federation

The mission of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF) is to promote the development of commercial human spaceflight, pursue ever-higher levels of safety, and share best practices and expertise throughout the industry. The Commercial Spaceflight Federation’s member companies, which include commercial spaceflight developers, operators, spaceports, suppliers, and service providers, are creating thousands of high-tech jobs nationwide, working to preserve American leadership in aerospace through technology innovation, and inspiring young people to pursue careers in science and engineering. For more information please visit www.commercialspaceflight.org or contact Executive Director John Gedmark at john@commercialspaceflight.org or at 202-349-1121.

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