NASA's space shuttle Atlantis descended back to Earth from it's final mission to the International Space Station last week, bringing the 30-year government-run shuttle program to an end.
NASA and the government will now rely upon private industry to design and develop space transportation to fly crew and cargo to low-Earth orbit and the ISS.
Enter SpaceX, established by entrepreneur and PayPal founder Elon Musk in 2002. SpaceX became the first commercial company in history to launch and recover a spacecraft from orbit when they launched their flagship Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on December 8, 2010.
SpaceX along with Boeing and Sierra Nevada, have signed contracts with NASA to continue shuttling cargo and astronauts to the International Space Station from the Space Coast of Florida.
As NASA was preparing for their final launch, SpaceX was proudly showing their facilities and 13-story Falcon 9 rocket as it was assembled inside their rocket assembly building at Launch Complex 40 to the throngs of media in town to witness the end of an era, and the dawn of a new one.
Photographer Gary W. Green can be reached at email@example.com. Follow the Sentinel photo staff on Twitter @OSPhoto. Like us on Facebook: Orlando Sentinel Photography.
The end of the shuttle era signals beginning of SpaceX
SpaceX proudly shows off their facilities and 13-story Falcon 9 rocket to media
End of the shuttle era means beginning of SpaceX (GARY W. GREEN, ORLANDO SENTINEL)