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article imageSpaceX gets new NASA contract to supply space station

By Nathan Salant     Nov 22, 2015 in Science
Hawthorne - NASA agreed Friday that a private California aerospace company could continue to build an experimental launch vehicle expected eventually to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station.
NASA's announcement was great news for billionaire Elon Musk, whose company SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies Corp.) is one of several firms competing for a share of a new commercial space launch market expected to be worth many billions of dollars.
SpaceX's future in the program was unclear since its last launch to the ISS in June ended in an explosion that destroyed the rocket and hundreds of millions of dollars in supplies, according to the Los Angles Times newspaper.
But, now, SpaceX will continue to work on developing its commercial rocket, called Dragon, under contracts awarded to the Hawthorne, Calif., company and the Boeing Co. last year.
A commercial rocket program will enable NASA to stop relying on the Russian Federation for rides to the ISS at a cost of millions of dollars per flight.
Boeing's joint venture with Lockheed Martin Corp. got the green light from the program six months ago.
SpaceX has fought for years to break the joint venture's monopoly on launching Pentagon satellites, culminating in a lawsuit settled earlier this year, the newspaper said.
The joint venture's Atlas V rocket relies on a Russian-made engine. SpaceX manufactures its own engines.
SpaceX had fought hard to break the joint venture's long-held monopoly in launching the Pentagon's satellites, including filing a lawsuit against the Air Force that was settled this year.
Musk's company has said it expects to resume launches next month, about six months after its unmanned rocket carrying cargo to the space station disintegrated after liftoff from Florida's Cape Canaveral.
Musk also said his company had investigated the June 28 accident that destroyed a rocket and its payload and determined that a metal strut had failed, setting off a series of events that led to the explosion.
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