SpaceX's Dragon Passes Manned Flight Checkpoint

Company aims to send humans into space in as little as three years.

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SpaceX, the company that recently sent an unmanned space capsule to the International Space Station, passed a critical NASA inspection that could open the door to future manned spaceflights in its Dragon space capsule, NASA announced Thursday.

During the review, SpaceX and NASA discussed every aspect of a future crewed mission, including weight and power requirements for Dragon, launch and landing sites, and onboard living arrangements.

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The company also discussed how its emergency abort system would work if a problem arose during takeoff or landing, and had to outline how it would protect astronauts' safety in case of an emergency while in space.

The review puts the company on target for a mid-decade launch, according to CEO Elon Musk, who said the inspection puts SpaceX "exactly where [they] want to be—ready to move on to the next phase and on target to fly people into space aboard Dragon by the middle of the decade."

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Although there are several companies working on manned spaceflight, SpaceX is considered as the frontrunner to get be first: Dragon has already made several successful flights, and in May, they became the first company to successfully dock a spacecraft at the International Space Station.

Jason Koebler is a science and technology reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at