FILE PHOTO: SpaceX headquarters is shown in Hawthorne, California, USA September 19, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – NASA gave the final go-ahead on Friday, billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s company SpaceX to conduct its first unmanned test flight of a newly-designed crew capsule to the International space station on 2 March.
The approval cleared a major hurdle for SpaceX in its quest to help the NASA to revive America’s manned space program, stalled since the space shuttle missions came to an end in 2011.
NASA has awarded SpaceX $2.6 billion, and aerospace rival Boeing Co $4.2 billion to build a separate rocket and capsule launch systems to carry AMERICAN astronauts to and from the space station, an orbital research laboratory that flies 250 miles (402 km) above the Earth.
“After a full day of briefings and discussion, NASA and SpaceX go ahead with the plans to conduct the first uncrewed test flight of the Crewed Dragon on a mission to the International Space Station,” NASA said in a statement announcing the decision.
Reporting by Joey Roulette in Cape Canaveral, Florida; Writing and additional reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Tom Brown