Public-Private Partnerships in Space sees the return of the First Commercial Space Cargo Flight

The newest competitive marketplace is out of this world, literally. Space is the newest investment frontier for companies following the retirement of NASA’s spaceshuttle fleet. Space exploration now relies on a private-public partnership between the Space Administration and companies such as California’s Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corp.

The most recent partnership is the SpaceX Dragon capsule which returned from its “historic mission” to the International Space Station on Sunday October 28th. Its return is marked as “mission accomplished” for all parties as Dragon successfully became the first commercial cargo flight in space. The capsule, unmanned for the duration of its trip, is also the first robotic spacecraft ever to return cargo to Earth.

Launched on October 7th by SpaceX in California, the capsule carried 882 pounds of supplies including scientific equipment, crew supplies such as clothes and fresh apples, and hardware to the station. Dragon returned safely with cargo and test samples from the astronauts manning the space station, landing in the ocean off of the Southern California coast. The success of this mission bodes well for the 11 commercial flights scheduled to resupply the station, the next of which departs in January. These flights comprise a $1.6 billion contract between SpaceX and NASA.

The future is full of continued business relations between NASA and American companies. Alongside Space X, Orbital Sciences Corp is under a $1.9 billion contract with NASA to launch 8 rocket and spacecraft missions with the first launching before the new year. Additionally, a current NASA contract to launch manned orbital flights is considering bids from companies Sierra Nevada and Boeing. These partnerships have led to meaningful experimentation and the products of multilateral research reflect “American ingenuity” states SpaceX. Certainly, space exploration has entered a new age and with the success of Dragon, the future appears bright for NASA and their private partners.

Posted by: Sophia Higgins

Sources: SpaceX, Space.com, CNN, Voxxi

Photo Credit: Dragon Splashes Down @ photostream courtesy of Flickr user NASA Goddard Photo and Video

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