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Who Are Musk’s Main Competitors? He has a lot of them. Boeing, which is building its CST-100 spacecraft to fly crewed ISS missions along with Musk’s Dragon, is a key rival. So is Orbital Sciences, the company that shares the ISS cargo-run contract with SpaceX. United Launch Alliance (ULA) is a partnership of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, and Musk is at war with it for a piece of the defense launching business. Richard Bronson’s Virgin Galactic is a marginal player, planning to sell only suborbital rides for vacationers with deep pockets. Paul Allen’s Vulcan Aerospace similarly wants to play in the space vacation sector, but here too, actual flights are still nowhere near imminent. Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin sees itself as a big player, and its recent upright landing of a suborbital spacecraft put it in the game. But Blue Origin too has a long way to go before it is actually flying passengers or payloads.

A better question might be why they fly at all. Think of a rocket as an egg or, more specifically, an egg shell. Think of the fuel as the white and the yolk. The Saturn V, the largest rocket ever built, weighed 6.5 million lbs. at launch, and 5.5 million of that was fuel. That’s basically a bomb, one that’s designed to perform a controlled explosion. The forces in play when a rocket is lit—in terms of chemistry, physics, speed and air resistance—can be colossally destructive. It’s only by controlling them to within extremely narrow tolerances that any launch is successful. The SpaceX explosion in June is believed to have been caused by a faulty strut in the rocket’s second stage, which allowed a high-pressure container of helium to break free, sending it smashing through a nearby tank of liquid oxygen. The company described the result as an “over pressure event,” which basically means everything blew up. It’s true that these things inevitably happen in the space game. Bit it’s equally true that you don’t get to stay in that game if you can’t minimize those risks.

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The reusable 118-metre rocket will have its own dedicated passenger ship, but the mission will not involve a lunar landing. The average distance from Earth to the moon is about 382,500 kilometres.

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 How Close Is SpaceX To Flying A Crew? Very close—maybe. The company has used its Dragon spacecraft to make uncrewed cargo runs to the ISS. The Dragon was designed with crew compatibility in mind, which means the ship has already proven its basic space worthiness, though it has a good way to go before its life support systems are similarly proven. SpaceX and Boeing are both scheduled to begin crewed runs to the ISS in 2017, and NASA has already designated the first astronauts who will fly in the new ships. The 2017 target could slip and the June explosion of one of SpaceX’s cargo rockets during launch was hardly good news for the company. The recent launch of the Falcon 9, even without the upright first-stage landing, was a confidence booster. But with astronaut lives on the line in future flights, the company will have to put a string of good launches together to make up for that very bad one.

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As early as April 2012, at least five potential locations were publicly known, including “sites in Alaska, California, Florida,[17] Texas and Virginia.”[18] In September 2012, it became clear that Georgia and Puerto Rico were also interested in pursuing the new SpaceX commercial spaceport facility.[19] The Camden County, Georgia, Joint Development Authority voted unanimously in November 2012 to “explore developing an aero-spaceport facility” at an Atlantic coastal site to support both horizontal and vertical launch operations.[20] The main Puerto Rico site under consideration at the time was land that had formerly been the Roosevelt Roads Naval Station.[4]:87 By September 2012, SpaceX was considering a total of seven potential locations for the new commercial launch pad around the United States. For much of the time since, the leading candidate location for the new facility was a parcel of land adjacent to Boca Chica Beach near Brownsville, Texas

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