NASA has certified SpaqceX’s Crew Dragon space capsule for regular manned flights into space, the first privately manufactured spacecraft ever. The US space agency is now explaining that such certification was last issued 40 years ago, for the space shuttle.
Each step is an important milestone for Elon Musk and the company. NASA is no longer dependent on ordering flights to the ISS for its astronauts in Russian space capsules and SpaceX is thus temporarily the only commercial NASA contract partner for manned flights into space.
No longer dependent on Russia
With the certification, NASA can now implement its Commercial Crew Program after years of preparatory work. In 2014, the space agency commissioned SpaceX and Boeing to develop and test space capsules for manned flights in Earth orbit. This was preceded by the end of the space shuttle program, which is why the USA had no longer had the opportunity to fly astronauts into space since 2011. The space capsules developed by the two companies should actually be ready for use in 2017, but that had been delayed again and again. In May, however, the first take-off was successful and the first regular flight with SpaceX technology is imminent. The bookings in Russia cost NASA around 80 million US dollars per seat, at SpaceX it should be around 55 million dollars, writes CNBC.
At SpaceX you can see the certification for regular flights now as the culmination of years of development, testing and training. The engines have been tested over 700 times and the docking system over 500 times. Eight million hours had flowed into HiL tests (Hardware in the Loop) and the parachutes had been tried out almost 100 times. Manned flights into space are the core mission of SpaceX and it is honored to be able to help NASA usher in a new era of exploration of space. “I am very proud that we are returning to regular manned space launches from American soil with American rockets and spacecraft,” adds NASA boss Jim Bridenstine.
First regular flight is coming up
The first regular flight of a SpaceX capsule to the ISS (Crew-1) is scheduled to start on Saturday and transport NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker as well as their Japanese colleagues Soichi Noguchi. They should then stay on the International Space Station for six months. Thanks to the space capsule from SpaceX, NASA can now increase the number of its astronauts on the ISS from three to four, which means that seven space travelers can now inhabit the outpost of humanity at the same time. In December, Boeing plans to start another unmanned test flight to the ISS so that it can also fly astronauts there next year.
(Image: NASA / Joel Kowsky)