Over the weekend, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced it will soon launch its very first mission on the soil of Haute 100 lister Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corporation. This marks the second in a series of four guaranteed orders NASA will make under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts.
“It’s really exciting to see SpaceX and Boeing with hardware in flow for their first crew rotation missions,” said Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. “It is important to have at least two healthy and robust capabilities from U.S. companies to deliver crew and critical scientific experiments from American soil to the space station throughout its lifespan.”
At this time, NASA did not announce what company will fly the mission, but the government agency did confirm the use of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft. The vehicle has undergone number of development and certification phases. SpaceX recently performed a critical design review, which demonstrated the aircraft has reached an appropriate level of design maturity to work toward fabrication, assembly, integration and test activities.
“The authority to proceed with Dragon’s first operational crew mission is a significant milestone in the Commercial Crew Program and a great source of pride for the entire SpaceX team,” said Gwynne Shotwell, president and chief operating officer of SpaceX. “When Crew Dragon takes NASA astronauts to the space station in 2017, they will be riding in one of the safest, most reliable spacecraft ever flown. We’re honored to be developing this capability for NASA and our country.”
Thus far we know, a commercial crew will carry up to four NASA or NASA-sponsored crewmembers and about 220 pounds of pressurized cargo. The Crew Dragon will remain at the station for up to 210 days, available as an emergency lifeboat during that time.
“Commercial crew launches are really important for helping us meet the demand for research on the space station because it allows us to increase the crew to seven,” said Julie Robinson, International Space Station chief scientist. “Over the long term, it also sets the foundation for scientific access to future commercial research platforms in low- Earth orbit.”
Photo courtesy of SpaceX