CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -

NASA has officially cleared SpaceX to begin cargo deliveries to the International Space Station under a $1.6 billion contract, Administrator Charles Bolden announced Thursday at the company's Cape Canaveral launch complex.

The milestone officially marks SpaceX's graduation from the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services development program the company began in 2006, Local 6 News partner Florida Today reported.

SpaceX in May became the first private company to dock a spacecraft to the station -- an unmanned Dragon capsule -- and return it to Earth.

The successful demonstration flight proved SpaceX was ready for operational missions, the first of which is expected to launch from the Cape in October.

Bolden spoke in front of the two-stage Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule slated to fly the next mission under the Commercial Resupply Services contract.

"We are where the agency expected to be at this particular time," Bolden said.

Bolden's announcement came shortly after one from XCOR aerospace, a company that will open a manufacturing operation in Brevard County to build its suborbital spacecraft.

XCOR CEO Jeff Greason said the Space Coast's rich workforce was the deciding factor on where it would be located.

"Thanks to NASA's long history here, there's just the right group of people here with exactly the skills we need," Greason said.

XCOR officials say the company will bring about 150 jobs and dozens of support jobs.

United Launch Alliance's Atlas V rocket is scheduled to launch Friday morning at 5:07 a.m. to study how space weather impacts the earth.