SpaceX wins approval for first commercial spacecraft re-entry

Posted by Kate Taylor

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has awarded SpaceX the first-ever commercial license to re-enter a spacecraft from orbit.

The one-year license gives the green light to next month's launch of SpaceX's  Falcon 9 rocket, carrying the company's Dragon capsule. This is expected to orbit the Earth at more than 17,000 miles per hour, reenter the Earth’s atmosphere and land in the Pacific Ocean a few hours later.

It's something that's never been achieved by a private company before. Indeed, only five nations - the US, Russia, China, Japan and India - have managed it, along with the European Space Agency.

"Milestones are an important part of space exploration and SpaceX achieved a very important one today," said Doug Cooke, associate administrator for NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate.

"I congratulate SpaceX on this landmark achievement and wish them the best with their launch of the Dragon capsule."

The flight also marks the first stage in NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program, bringing commercial supply services to the International Space Station.

After the Space Shuttle retires, SpaceX will make at least 12 flights to carry cargo to and from the ISS.

"Congratulations to the SpaceX team for receiving the Federal Aviation Administration's first-ever commercial license to reenter a spacecraft from Earth orbit," said NASA administrator Charlie Bolden.

"With this license in hand, SpaceX can proceed with its launch of the Dragon capsule. The flight of Dragon will be an important step toward commercial cargo delivery to the International Space Station. NASA wishes SpaceX every success with the launch."