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SpaceX Founder Elon Musk Reveals New Spacecraft


NPR's Business News begins with - not kidding - riding a dragon. Last night, the private spaceflight company, SpaceX, unveiled a new capsule called Dragon to take astronauts into orbit. NPR's Geoff Brumfiel reports that this is part of the company's promise to make spaceflight cheap.

GEOFF BRUMFIEL, BYLINE: When Internet entrepreneur, Elon Musk, announced he was starting a space launch company, there were doubters.

DOUG STANLEY: A billionaire with no aerospace experience comes along, decides he wants to build a rocket - you'd be naturally skeptical.

BRUMFIEL: Doug Stanley is president of The National Institute Of Aerospace and a former spacecraft designer. But Musk's company, SpaceX, has proven itself. Its rockets work and its Dragon capsule carries supplies to and from the international space station. The Dragon's success made a convert out of Stanley.

STANLEY: A lot of people have tried to develop usable vehicles over the years, commercially, and none of them have been successful.

BRUMFIEL: Not only is the Dragon capsule successful, it's affordable. NASA has bought 12 of them for just 1.6 billion dollars - a bargain. The secret, says Stanley, is the company doesn't outsource. Everything is built at its California headquarters.

STANLEY: You eliminate all the middlemen. That's been a big key to lowering costs for them.

BRUMFIEL: Now, SpaceX is trying to make human spaceflight cheap. It's Dragon V2 capsule is a taller, sleeker version of the cargo design. SpaceX says it could carry astronauts for way less than the old space shuttle. Stanley says the company has what it takes.

STANLEY: If you're just taking something to the space station - whether it's a human being or a - fresh bananas - it doesn't make a huge difference.

BRUMFIEL: SpaceX hopes to launch its first astronauts in as little as two to three years. Geoff Brumfiel, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Geoff Brumfiel works as a senior editor and correspondent on NPR's science desk. His editing duties include science and space, while his reporting focuses on the intersection of science and national security.