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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

India's mini-shuttle blasts into Musk's race for space

India successfully launched a scale model of a reusable spacecraft on Monday, a project that in time could pit the nation against billionaires Jeff Bezos and Elon in the race to make access to space cheaper and easier.

The winged vessel, one-fifth of full size, blasted off on a rocket from Sriharikota base in Andhra Pradesh, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said. The spacecraft reached an altitude of 65 km and glided back at supersonic speed for a splashdown in the Bay of Bengal. The test took about 13 minutes.

India put a probe into Mars orbit in 2014 for just $74 million, demonstrating a combination of technological capability and low costs that chimes with the goal of more frequent space travel being championed by Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. and Bezos’s Blue Origin LLC. Both companies seek to curb costs by making rockets reusable, and are conducting test launches more often.

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