Musk: SpaceX Could Fill the “Gap” in Three Years

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Artists conception of SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft in orbit

Artists conception of SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft in orbit

Elon Musk said today that his company SpaceX could fill most the gap between the end of space shuttle flights in late 2010 and the beginning of Orion mission in 2015.

“I think we could address most of the gap….from mid-2012 onwards,” Musk told a lunchtime crowd today at the International Space Development Conference near Orlando.

SpaceX is already developing its Dragon freighter to deliver cargo to the International Space Station under NASA’s COTS program. Musk said the Dragon spacecraft is being designed to be easily upgraded to carry human crews.

NASA plans a follow-up to the COTS program. Musk said that it would take SpaceX about 2.5 years from when a contract is let to deliver cargo and crew to the International Space Station.

Dragon will be launched aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, a medium-left version of the smaller Falcon 1 launcher. SpaceX plans the first launch of Falcon 9 later this year.

The conference’s sponsor, the National Space Society, presented Musk with the Wernher von Braun Memorial Award for excellence to honor his work in building the Falcon rockets and the Dragon spacecraft.