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SpaceX unveils Dragon V2 spacecraft

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NASA pays the Russian government $71 million per seat to send astronauts into space. It's not exactly a great deal and is a big reason the U.S. wants to find other options.

A California company and its new rocket could change everything. Astronauts have a new way to fly and space travel may never be the same: Dragon V2, designed by California-based company SpaceX. This rocket is aimed at bringing America's astronauts to the International Space Station and then back to Earth. Space X has already sent unmanned cargo flights to the ISS with a previous model. Founder Elon Musk says this new design, with reclining seats and a sleek interior, can transport several astronauts for several days. Musk says that most importantly it includes a new propulsion system that will slow the crafts re-entry into orbit allowing it to literally land anywhere with the accuracy of a helicopter.

The announcement came at a pivotal time for space travel. Since the end of the old space shuttle program, the only way to get American astronauts to space was with Russian aircraft. It's a costly and often complicated relationship and a major reason the Obama administration is pushing private U.S. companies to step in.

Space.com writer Miriam Kramer says NASA wants to launch its astronauts from U.S. soil; SpaceX could do that with V2 if it is awarded the contract.

Several private companies are involved in this potential race to be NASA's space ferry. SpaceX is considered to have an edge because of Dragon v2's versatility and reusability.

The first manned test flight is expected in the next 3 years.

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