Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, has unveiled a new craft it hopes NASA will use to for resupply runs to the International Space Station.
The capsule, an upgraded passenger version of the Dragon cargo ship, is fitted with souped up motors and landing legs.
The firm’s founder and CEO, Elon Musk, believes it can begin manned mission within two years.
“Long term we really want to get to the point of where there are thousands of space flights a year and ultimately where we have a base on the Moon and a base on Mars and become a multi-planet species in a true space civilization, that where things need to go in the long term,” said Musk.
Dragon is one of three privately owned space taxis vying for NASA development funds and launch contracts.
There is strong domestic competition for American rocket engines after the US imposed sanctions on Russia for annexing Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula.
NASA also has been working with SpaceX, Boeing and privately owned Sierra Nevada on a related commercial program to develop spaceships to fly astronauts, with the goal of breaking Russia’s monopoly on station crew transports before the end of 2017.
The United States currently pays Russia more than 60 million dollars per person for round-trip flights on the Russian Soyuz capsule. The price climbs to more than 70 million dollars in 2016 and to 76 million dollars in 2017.
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