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Private Space Race Heats Up

Dragon V2 spacecraft, undated file photo provided by SpaceX.
Privately-funded, manned space exploration and tourism received two boosts on Thursday.

SpaceX unveiled its Dragon V2 spacecraft, which the company hopes will one day take astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk presented the new spacecraft at a company facility in California.

Dragon V2 could "land anywhere on Earth with the accuracy of a helicopter,” Musk said.

He added that the craft could be used up to 10 times before needing servicing.

The craft could also be turned around quickly after landing under propulsion on land, he said.

"As long as we continue to throw away rockets and spacecraft, we will never have true access to space," Musk said adding that continuing to do so “will always be incredibly expensive."

Meanwhile SpaceX competitor Virgin Galactic announced it had signed an agreement with Spaceport America and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, which the company says will help “clear the path for commercial flights” on its SpaceShipTwo.

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo is seen flying over the Mojave Desert in California on Sept. 5.
Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo is seen flying over the Mojave Desert in California on Sept. 5.
According to Virgin Galactic, the agreement “sets out the parameters for how “routine space missions launched from Spaceport America will be integrated into the National Airspace System.”

“Our team is working hard to begin routine and affordable space launches from Spaceport America and this agreement brings us another step closer to that goal,” said Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides in a statement. “We are grateful to the FAA and New Mexico for their partnership to achieve this milestone.”

Virgin Galactic currently has agreements with Edwards Air Force Base and the FAA’s Joshua Control Facility for test flights in California.

The company said the agreements “provide coverage for the company’s airspace needs through the remainder of the test flight program in California and into commercial service in New Mexico.”

The company is planning to begin commercial flights by the end of the year and says more than 600 people have already agreed to pay $250,000 for the trip.

Virgin Galactic is owned by British billionaire Richard Branson.

Here's a video of the unveiling of the Dragon V2:

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