SpaceX Founder Elon Musk Reveals New Spacecraft

The private space flight company SpaceX has unveiled the manned version of its Dragon space capsule at its California headquarters. Founder Elon Musk has promised to make space flight inexpensive.

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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.

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