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It was no apparition.

“Just over a year after the retirement of the space shuttle, we have returned space station cargo resupply missions to U.S. soil,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden Jr.

SpaceX is shooting for its next supply run in January.

Another company looking to haul space station cargo, Virginia’s Orbital Sciences Corp., hopes to launch a solo test flight in December and a demo mission to the station early next year.

Every time SpaceX or a competitor flies successfully, Bolden told reporters, “that gives the nonbelievers one more opportunity to get on board and root for us” and help enable commercial launches for space station astronauts. This will further free NASA up to aim for points beyond low-Earth orbit, like Mars.

“This was a big night,” Bolden concluded.

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Online:

SpaceX: http://www.spacex.com/

NASA: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html