SpaceX has been given the go-ahead to launch an unmanned cargo run to the International Sapce Station (ISS). The move is significant because it is the first time a private company will be given the chance to send a mission to dock with the ISS, and if all goes well a manned mission could be launched by the company within three years.
In 2010 SpaceX became the first private company to launch a capsule into orbit and then bring it down successfully. Since NASA lost its fleet of shuttles, the US space program has been largely reliant upon hitching lifts from Russian rockets, while US companies scramble to provide their own solutions. The SpaceX project looks like being the first private project to come to fruition.
The unmanned SpaceX mission will launch from Cape Canaveral on February 7th. The Dragon spacecraft will dock with the ISS to deliver supplies, and by 2013 SpaceX is hoping to send a crew up to the ISS. In other words, the dawn of the era of commercial space flight really is upon us now.