NASA Contractor's Launch Kicks Off Commercial Space Race

By Dietrich Knauth (May 22, 2012, 6:21 PM EDT) -- NASA contractor Space Exploration Technologies Corp. launched the first commercial space flight to the International Space Station on Tuesday, a significant milestone in NASA's quest to open up outer space to private companies.

SpaceX's unmanned Dragon spacecraft, funded by a mix of private investment and NASA contracts, will deliver cargo to the International Space Station, and if successful, would position the company to begin a cargo delivery contract worth between $1.6 billion and $3.1 billion.

But both NASA and SpaceX have even bigger goals in mind for the project, which they view as an early step toward a future in which...

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