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Sunday 22 October 2017

Giant leap in race to capitalise on space

Nick Allen in Los Angeles

THE first rocket mission by a private company to the International Space Station is to be launched in what has been hailed as a "giant leap" for the commercialisation of space.

California-based SpaceX, run by South African-born billionaire Elon Musk, is attempting to become the first private venture to reach the $100bn (€78bn) outpost 240 miles above Earth.

Its Falcon 9 rocket and unmanned 19ft by 12ft Dragon capsule were due to blast off from Cape Canaveral in Florida this morning. The launch was originally planned for May 7, but was delayed.

Michael Lopez-Alegria, a former Nasa astronaut and space station commander, said: "It is, by all accounts, an important step, bordering on a giant leap, for commercial space."

After retiring its shuttle fleet last year, Nasa is dependent on foreign partners, including Russia, to get cargo and astronauts to the space station. It is looking to private ventures to take over the role in coming years.

In December 2010, SpaceX successfully launched a test Dragon capsule into orbit and returned it to Earth.

The latest flight will see it undertake a two-day journey to the space station. The ship will deliver a "grocery run" consisting of 1,000lbs of food and clothing. It will also be carrying several scientific experiments, including one to assess if grape juice ferments faster in space. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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