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Elon Musk's SpaceX seeks 'private sector Cape Canaveral'

So many rockets and ships, not enough launch pads

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Private rocket company SpaceX is looking around for new launch sites to take care of all the commercial customer demand it's getting.

Space Exploration Technologies already has a launch pad at Cape Canaveral in Florida and is currently developing one at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, but it says it needs more.

"Our growing launch manifest has led us to look for additional sites. We're considering several states and territories," CEO Elon Musk said in a canned statement.

"I envision this site functioning like a commercial Cape Canaveral," he added.

The private sector upstart said it had received 14 new orders for its Falcon 9 rocket in the last year alone and has sold 40 missions for the bird booster, "over half of which are for commercial customers".

The news is perhaps a bit of a "So, there!" to NASA, which has a less than comfortable partnership with the rocketing start-up to replace some of the work of the shutdown Space Shuttle programme.

SpaceX is making the agency, and traditional buddies Lockheed and Boeing, look bad by developing rockets that are way cheaper because they use kerosene instead of hydrogen fuel and because the company employs fewer people.

Last week, reports suggested that the first flight of Dragon, the cargoship intended to sit on a Falcon 9 rocket and carry supplies to the International Space Station, had been delayed and NASA's funding for contracted work like that mission would be cut back.

Dragon has already had a successful test flight into orbit and back again, and was due to dock with the ISS sometime before the end of this year. Now, the mission has been postponed into next year because, according to the Wall Street Journal, the firm's boffins need to modify control software in the Dragon capsule.

The WSJ also said that NASA's funding for outsourced space flights would be cut, meaning for the most part the money it would have given to SpaceX.

While it would seem to most people that it makes sense to spend lots of money with SpaceX and get a lot more bang for your buck, the fact that there are far fewer employees at the private sector firm than at NASA, Lockheed and Boeing combo is not a good thing in the current political climate. ®

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