NASA Clears SpaceX To Start Station Resupply Missions

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WASHINGTON — NASA has formally cleared Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) to begin making cargo runs to the international space station following the company’s completion of its $400 million Commercial Orbital Transportation Services contract agreement with the agency.

In the second of two demonstrations under that contract, SpaceX delivered cargo to the orbital outpost in May using its Dragon capsule launched atop its Falcon 9 rocket.

SpaceX will fly 12 logistics missions to the station under its $1.6 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract awarded in 2008. The first of those flights is scheduled for no earlier than Oct. 5.

NASA is still waiting for its second cargo services provider, Orbital Sciences Corp., to wrap up its own demonstration program. Orbital holds a $1.9 billion contract to make eight deliveries to the space station with its Cygnus space freighter and Antares launcher.

Orbital has two flight demonstrations scheduled: the Antares maiden flight, in which the rocket will carry a ballast payload; and a mission with the full Antares/Cygnus stack. These demonstrations are scheduled for October and December, the company says.