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SpaceX plans November test flight to space station

California-based rocket maker SpaceX said that it will make a test flight in late November to the International Space Station, now that NASA has retired its space shuttle program.

“SpaceX has been hard at work preparing for our next flight — a mission designed to demonstrate that a privately-developed space transportation system can deliver cargo to and from the International Space Station (ISS),” the company, also called Space Exploration Technologies, said in a statement.

The mission is the second to be carried out by SpaceX, one of a handful of firms competing to make a spaceship to replace the now-defunct US shuttle, which had been used to carry supplies and equipment to the orbiting outpost.

“NASA has given us a November 30, 2011 launch date, which should be followed nine days later by Dragon berthing at the ISS,” the company said.

It said the arrival of the vessel at the space station would herald “the beginning of a new era in space travel.”

“Together, government and the private sector can simultaneously increase the reliability, safety and frequency of space travel, while greatly reducing the costs,” SpaceX said.

The company won $75 million in new seed money earlier this year, [...]

NASA Tests All-Composite Space Capsule

NASA Tests All-Composite Space Capsule

Credit: NASA/Sean Smith/ATK

Spacecraft of the future may well be built using the same tough, lightweight laminated materials used today for race cars, business jets and high-end sports equipment.

NASA’s Composite Crew Module has performed well in tests simulating structural stresses of launch and atmospheric reentry. A team led by the NASA Engineering and Safety Center designed and built such a space capsule, called a crew module, then mounted the full-scale test article into a custom-built rig for static testing at NASA’s Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va. Internal pressure and forces are being applied to critical parts of the crew module, simulating the stresses it would encounter as it carries astronauts during a space flight.

“We pressurized the module to twice Earth’s atmosphere to demonstrate the ultimate design capability of the structure, and followed that by pushing and pulling it to simulate the forceful tug of the different mission phases,” said Mike Kirsch, manager of the Composite Crew Module (CCM) project. “There were no anomalies and performance aligned amazingly well with analytical predictions,” he added.

Additional testing of the composite crew module will be conducted at Langley to gauge the structure’s resistance to damage, culminating in a planned test [...]