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SpaceX inches closer to fly astronauts to space

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An artistic illustration. A SpaceX photo

HAWTHORNE (BNS): Private space firm SpaceX has moved a step closer in developing a spacecraft that it says will serve as the successor to the US Space Shuttle by ferrying astronauts to space.

The company has successfully completed preliminary design review of its launch abort system, called DragonRider.

The design review of the new system, designed for manned missions using SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft, has been approved by NASA, the company said last week.

The new launch abort system provides crew with emergency escape capability throughout entire flight and returns with the spacecraft, allowing for easy reuse and radical reductions in the cost of space transport.

"Dragon's integrated launch abort system provides astronauts with the ability to safely escape from the beginning of the launch until the rocket reaches orbit," said David Giger, co-lead of the DragonRider programme.

The next step for SpaceX would be to start building the hardware at the heart of the new launch abort system.

The private space firm has developed the Falcon 9 carrier rocket which has completed two successful demonstration missions on June 4 and December 8, 2010.

In the December mission, which was the first demonstration flight under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) programme, the rocket launched the Dragon spacecraft which successfully entered orbit, circled the Earth twice before re-entering the atmosphere from low orbit, and splash-landing into the Pacific Ocean.

The mission established SpaceX as the first private company to launch and recover a spacecraft from orbit.

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SpaceX  Dragon  Falcon 9  
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