Washington: After years of design, development, and testing NASA has finally certified SpaceX to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS) on its Crew Dragon spaceship.
The Crew Dragon, including the Falcon 9 rocket and associated ground systems, has thus become the first new, crew spacecraft to be NASA-certified for regular flights with astronauts since the space shuttle nearly 40 years ago.
NASA said it completed the signing of the Human Rating Certification Plan on Tuesday for SpaceX’ crew transportation system after a thorough flight readiness review ahead the agency’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission with astronauts to the space station scheduled for launch on November 14.
“I’m extremely proud to say we are returning regular human spaceflight launches to American soil on an American rocket and spacecraft,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, said in a statement.
“This certification milestone is an incredible achievement from NASA and SpaceX that highlights the progress we can make working together with commercial industry.”
Several critical events paved the way for this achievement, including grounds tests, simulations, uncrewed flight tests and NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 test flight with astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley earlier this year.
The launch of the Demo-2 mission on May 30 marked the first time astronauts flew aboard the American rocket and spacecraft from the US to the space station, and extensive analysis of the test flight data followed the safe return of Behnken and Hurley on August 2.
Prior to Demo-2, NASA and SpaceX completed several demonstration flights to prove the system was ready to fly astronauts.
“Thank you to NASA for their continued support of SpaceX and partnership in achieving this goal,” said SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.
“I could not be more proud of everyone at SpaceX and all of our suppliers who worked incredibly hard to develop, test, and fly the first commercial human spaceflight system in history to be certified by NASA. This is a great honour that inspires confidence in our endeavour to return to the Moon, travel to Mars, and ultimately help humanity become multi-planetary.”