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SpaceX to focus on astronaut capsule

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers
Hawthorne, Calif. (UPI) Feb 18, 2011
Commercial space company SpaceX says it has put off development of its Falcon rocket to focus on its Dragon capsule intended to take astronauts into orbit.

The company said the Falcon 1 rocket, which has had five successful test launches, will be temporarily put aside to concentrate the firm's efforts on Dragon, contracted to carry astronauts and supplies to the International Space Station, Florida Today reported Friday.

SpaceX says it also plans to accelerate development of its Falcon Heavy rocket, which could compete with United Launch Alliance for government launches.

ULA, which employs about 700 people in Florida, conducts about a dozen launches a year from Cape Canaveral, Fla., and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

"The Air Force (Space and Missile Systems Center) in Los Angeles told us that we needed to fly Falcon Heavy and activate our new launch facilities at Vandenberg in order to compete for the (Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle) contract currently held by ULA," SpaceX Communications Director Kirstin Brost said.

In a statement, the U.S. Air Force confirmed it has given SpaceX guidance for developing the Falcon Heavy, but said, "We do not have a (formal) agreement with SpaceX regarding the development of the vehicle."

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