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SpaceX Awarded Commercial Re-entry License By FAA

November 23, 2010

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.

NASA issued the following statements Monday after the Federal Aviation Administration issued SpaceX a license for spacecraft reentry:

“Congratulations to the SpaceX team for receiving the Federal Aviation Administration’s first-ever commercial license to reenter a spacecraft from Earth orbit,” NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden said. “With this license in hand, SpaceX can proceed with its launch of the Dragon capsule. The flight of Dragon will be an important step toward commercial cargo delivery to the International Space Station. NASA wishes SpaceX every success with the launch.”

“Milestones are an important part of space exploration and SpaceX achieved a very important one today,” said Doug Cooke, associate administrator for NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate. “I congratulate SpaceX on this landmark achievement and wish them the best with their launch of the Dragon capsule.”

Image Caption: Water landing of Dragon Spacecraft. Courtesy NASA

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