The license was needed because the Space X Dragon space capsule is scheduled to launch atop Space X's Falcon 9 rocket on Dec. 7 and return to earth. The Launch of the rocket had already been approved by the FAA. The FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation noted that it has licensed over 200 successful launches.
While the test is unmanned, the mission is a precursor to NASA and Space X efforts to eventually provide commercial trips to the International Space Station with cargo and crew. The Dragon capsule is likely to end up bringing astronauts to and from the ISS. NASA in fact has already has already spotted Space X $1.6 billion to transport cargo to the International Space Station using Dragon, starting in 2011 if testing goes well.
While there are still at least three test flights to go, the plan is that the rocket and its Dragon capsule will ultimately be the first commercial spacecraft to carry astronauts into orbit. In June Space X's Falcon 9 rocket launched and successfully achieved orbit on its inaugural flight test.
The FAA added that its license evaluation includes a review of: public safety issues; the activity's environmental impact; any payload to be flown; any national security or foreign policy concerns, and whether or not the commercial space operator is appropriately insured.
The FAA license was just one of a number of recent shots in the arm the commercial space industry has received recently.
This week Masten Space Systems and Space Florida inked an agreement to perform demonstration launches of the space company's suborbital reusable launch vehicle from Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Last week another key spaceport -- Spaceport America and the New Mexico Spaceport Authority put out Requests For Proposals for the day-to-day operations as the facility as it revs up for space operations.
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