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SpaceX 'Dragon' Capsule Splashes Down In Pacific

The unmanned "Dragon" capsule -- the first spacecraft to be launched to the International Space Station (ISS) by a private company -- has splashed down off the coast of California, successfully completing its pioneering mission.

The capsule finished a nine-day test flight, delivering hundreds of kilograms of supplies to the ISS.

Astronauts on the ISS used the station's robot arm to release "Dragon" into orbit. It splashed down about 900 kilometers southwest of Los Angeles.

California-based Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, is one of two private firms hired by NASA to fly cargo to the station after the retirement of the space shuttles last year.

SpaceX hopes to send manned flights to the ISS within three years.

The next scheduled launch of a Dragon aboard a SpaceX Falcon rocket is set for September.

Approval For Another Private Space Venture

Meanwhile, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has given permission for Virgin Galactic and its partner to start experimental flights of its six-man spacecraft.

Scaled Composites, the company built the SpaceShipTwo spaceship, said on May 30 that it received a one-year experimental permit to conduct suborbital flights.

The spacecraft is based on the SpaceShipOne that made three flights, one of them going as high as 112 kilometers above the Earth.

Scaled Composites and partner Virgin Galactic have taken deposits from more than 500 people who want to fly on the new spaceship.

The cost for a seat on SpaceShipTwo was reportedly some $200,000.

Based on reporting by ITAR-TASS, Reuters, dpa, and AP