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More progress in private enterprise spaceflight

This weekend Elon Musk’s SpaceX is scheduled to test-fly its Falcon 9, a new stretched version of the Falcon series. There is a Canadian payload on board, but Elon Musk points out that the Falcon 9 has a lot of new technology on board, with a correspondingly high risk of failure on a first flight. On the way down SpaceX will try to relight the engine just before splashdown, in a further test of the technology that will enable a rocket to return to its landing site in a controlled descent. The recent Grasshopper flight (above video) not only tested this, but managed to frighten a small herd of cattle at the same time! (Watch them in the foreground at the bottom of the frame).
From the other side of America on September 17th Orbital Sciences is set to follow SpaceX’s Dragon by sending its Cygnus craft to rendezvous with the International Space Station with some non-essential cargo. Launched atop an Antares rocket from Wallops Island, the Cygnus will burn up (loaded with trash) on the way down after a month in orbit with the ISS.

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