NASA announced late last week that SpaceX, the private company that became the first non-governmental entity to fly to the International Space Station, will launch the first of its 12 planned resupply missions in October.
The announcement means NASA is comfortable with SpaceX using its Dragon vehicle for unmanned missions to the station. The agency said SpaceX's progress represents "progress toward a launch of astronauts from U.S. soil in the next five years."
"We're working to open a new frontier for commercial opportunities in space and create job opportunities in Florida and across the United States," Charles Bolden, NASA's administrator, said in a statement.
Bolden said if SpaceX is successful, the company will bring manned space flights "back here to the U.S. where it belongs."
In a May test mission, SpaceX became the first company to successfully fly to the space station. It will fulfill its 12-flight contract with NASA over the next few years. This winter, another company, Orbital Sciences Corp., will make its first test flight.
Jason Koebler is a science and technology reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at email@example.com