SpaceX is set to launch four astronauts in the first man-made commercial spacecraft.
This will not be SpaceX’s first human mission. NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley boarded the company’s Crew Dragon this summer, orbited the Earth, and arrived at the International Space Station. After two months of living and working on the space station, they climbed back into the Crew Dragon, screaming out of the atmosphere, and parachuting to Earth safely.
But that whole mission was considered a demo – an important step in achieving NASA’s human-space flight certification.
On Tuesday, NASA announced that it had finally certified SpaceX’s entire launch system for human spaceflight.
The decision was the result of the agency’s flight readiness review, in which experts and officials spent two days reviewing SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon space, software and mission work.
The certification comes just days before SpaceX’s next planned astronaut launch, scheduled for Saturday. The company has already installed a new Crew Dragon on the rocket to prepare for this mission, the longest and most critical yet. The first of six round-trip missions to the space station, called Crew-1, is the one that Alan Musk’s rocket company has signed with NASA.
“People think it’s just a spacecraft, but it’s a spacecraft, it’s a launch vehicle, it’s processing all over the land, that’s how you do your mission. All of this will allow our crew to safely fly to the International Space Station and come back and then recover, “Kathy Lloyders, who heads NASA’s manned space flight program, said in a press briefing on Tuesday. “You’ve shown us the data, and we trust you to do it. That’s a big confidence factor here.”
If the weather permits, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 will air on Saturday at 7:49 p.m. Crew will launch the dragon into space. The board will include astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker, and Sochi Noguchi. They should go to the space station eight hours later, where they will stay for about six months, marking the longest human spaceflight in the history of the United States.
When it’s time to get home, the astronauts will return to the crew dragon, which will remain attached to the space station during their stay, then a fiery weather in the Earth’s atmosphere.
“The lives of the drivers are in our hands – a very important responsibility,” Luders said.
This is the first time NASA has certified a human flight system since the space shuttle program began nearly 40 years ago. The decision marks the end of 10 years of development and testing funded by NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, a trade partnership designed to restore the capabilities of US human-astronauts. The government has spent more than 6 billion on that effort Planetary Society. The program can finally realize its goal with the start of the weekend.
“Thanks to NASA for its continued support of SpaceX and its partnership in achieving this goal.” Press release. “I can’t be more proud of each and every one of our SpaceX suppliers who worked incredibly hard to develop, test and fly the first commercial manned space system in history to be certified by NASA. It is a great honor to be inspired by faith. Our efforts will help humanity return to the moon, travel to Mars and eventually become a multi-planet. ”