In DepthSpace Science

Crewed launch deepens ties between NASA and SpaceX

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Science  22 May 2020:
Vol. 368, Issue 6493, pp. 811-812
DOI: 10.1126/science.368.6493.811

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Summary

On 27 May, NASA will launch people into space from U.S. soil for the first time since 2011, when the space shuttle Atlantis roared aloft on its final voyage. This time, astronauts will be riding not on a NASA rocket, but aboard vehicles bought from the private space company SpaceX. The occasion marks yet another milestone for the private California company, which over the past decade has gone from underdog to dominator. SpaceX now handles about two-thirds of NASA's launches, including many research payloads, with flights as cheap as $62 million, roughly two-thirds the price of a rocket from United Launch Alliance, a competitor. SpaceX's goals are not limited to low-Earth orbit: Last month it was selected to design a Moon lander, and it is steadily testing a huge heavy-lift rocket, called Starship, that could carry people to Mars. Researchers see both benefits and risks in the company's increasing power.

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