NASA certifies SpaceX's spacecraft ahead of landmark Crew-1 mission
After a long road featuring uncrewed test flights, launchpad explosions, parachute tests and finally crewed test flights, NASA has now officially certified SpaceX’s spacecraft system for transporting humans to the International Space Station (ISS). The approval makes SpaceX’s crew transportation system the first new spacecraft to be certified for routine astronaut flights since the Space Shuttle almost 40 years ago, with the stage now set for the landmark Crew-1 mission in the coming days.
Under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, the agency has been working with SpaceX on the development of spacecraft capable of carrying humans to the ISS. The motivation for the program is to lessen NASA’s reliance on Russian-built spacecraft, with the agency also entering an agreement with Boeing that centers on development of its Starliner capsule.
The agency is now on the precipice of recommencing regular crewed spaceflights from American soil, using SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule. Astronauts actually traveled to the ISS on the Crew Dragon for the first time back in May, when NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley climbed aboard as part of the Demo-2 mission.
Following that successful rehearsal, NASA and SpaceX soon set the date for the first of many routine crew transportation missions to the ISS. Following some delays, including one caused by a mishap on the launchpad during an unrelated SpaceX mission last month, the pair are now pushing ahead into a new era of American spaceflight.
“Today’s signing is about the people across NASA, SpaceX and other groups that came together to complete an unbelievable amount of hard work to accomplish this task,” says Kathy Lueders, associate administrator for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operation Mission Directorate. “Certification moves us from the design and test phase into the crew rotation phase of our work, but we will not stop making sure every flight, including NASA’s Space Crew-1 mission, will be approached with the same rigor we have put into making this the best system it can be for our astronauts.”
The first certified flight for the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft will carry NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, along with astronaut Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The crew will be on a six-month science mission to the ISS, with the Crew Dragon to collect them and return to Earth again next year.
The mission will lift off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, with the agency targeting this Saturday November 14 for the launch.