NASA approves first SpaceX milestone for Crew Dragon spacecraft

NASA approves first SpaceX mil...
The milestone is part of NASA's Commercial Crew Transportation Capability program (Image: NASA)
The milestone is part of NASA's Commercial Crew Transportation Capability program (Image: NASA)
View 1 Image
The milestone is part of NASA's Commercial Crew Transportation Capability program (Image: NASA)
The milestone is part of NASA's Commercial Crew Transportation Capability program (Image: NASA)

At the moment, if you want to fly to the International Space Station, your only option is to hitch a lift on one of Russia's 1970s-vintage Soyuz space capsules. That may not be the case for too much longer, with NASA announcing that it has approved the first milestone for the manned version of SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft.

Executed under a Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contract, the milestone consists of a successful Certification Baseline Review of SpaceX's plans for the manufacturing, launch, flight, and recovery of its Crew Dragon (AKA Dragon v.2) and the Falcon 9 v.1.1 rocket, which will propel it into orbit.

One of 23 agreements and milestones under the space agency's Commercial Crew Program approved this year, it is the latest step in developing privately owned and operated US spacecraft to ferry crews to the ISS. These spacecraft are currently being developed independently by SpaceX and Boeing. When certified, the two spacecraft will be able to travel to and from the ISS carrying up to seven passengers or a mixture of passengers and cargo. Being capable of remaining on station for 210 days, they will double as lifeboats; allowing ISS crews to be larger than facilitated by the three-person Soyuz.

According to NASA, SpaceX and Boeing will have to certify that their spacecraft and launching systems can be integrated, launched from a site in the United States, dock with the ISS, and that their systems' performance meets specifications. If all goes as planned, the Crew Dragon will make a test flight with at least one test pilot on board ... though that is still a few years away.

Source: NASA

Curly Oldfield
I always wonder WHY its a couple of years.. why not next year..
Larry Black
Laugh. The guy wants to know why not next year. Simple: $$$ and anti-tax GOP to provide the $$$. Need I say more?
Eli Mendez
The Soyuz flying now are not the same design as the ones flown in 1970s. They're a SIMILAR design, for sure, but they're larger and more advanced than the older ones.
@Curly Oldfield The CCtCap stuff was originally supposed to be ready for flight in 2015, however NASA signed a deal with the Russians to use Soyuz through 2017. It's probably a good thing, too. With The Antares explosion a couple months ago people are understandably a bit skittish about putting people on relatively untested rockets. SpaceX hasn't had anything remotely similar, but they're also well behind schedule on several things. In January they said they were going to fly the Falcon Heavy around November. By March they refined their plan to late 2014 to early 2015. At this point it's not looking good for early 2015, they still haven't launched their latest cargo mission, that's scheduled for early-mid January. Their focus seems to be on re-usable rockets which they've always planned to be part of Falcon Heavy, so perhaps that's taking them longer than they expected.
Curly, the modules are still under development. Dragon has yet to be tested, especially its heat shield. The Falcon rockets are learning to land feet first to make them reusable in order to save costs. They're pretty huge technological feats so the developmental and testing stages take quite a bit of time.
Marry Christmas
Please try to speed this up without cutting corners. We do not want to have to say "Trampoline" in Russian anymore than anyone wants to hear some short fat punk with a bad haircut, bad attitude, and a bad limp reviewing our movie choices.
Stephen N Russell
cut the bureaucracy meddlng do this by 2016.