SpaceX is one of two companies that built and tested new cargo spacecraft under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. SpaceX completed its final demonstration test flight in May, becoming the first commercial company ever to launch, rendezvous and be docked to the International Space Station. Orbital Sciences is the other company participating in COTS. Orbital's Antares launch vehicle is on the launch pad at Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia in advance of a hot fire test of the Antares first-stage engines. A flight test of the Antares with a simulated Cygnus spacecraft and a demonstration flight of Cygnus to the space station are planned for 2013.With commercial cargo flights to the space station under way in 2012, NASA took the next steps in the effort to launch Americans from U.S. soil again. The agency announced in August new agreements with three American commercial companies to design and develop the next generation of U.S. human spaceflight capabilities, enabling a launch of astronauts from the United States in the next five years.
NASA Makes Unprecedented Return To Mars, Advances Commercial Spaceflight And Adds To Its Amazing Research And Discoveries In 2012
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