NASA certifies Crew Dragon spacecraft to fly to ISS. NASA has officially certified the Crew Dragon capsule as the first-ever commercial spacecraft system for transporting humans. Another step forward for Elon Musk’s flagship company, SpaceX, and a new era in space exploration hand in hand with public-private collaboration.
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The U.S. space agency began a new strategy under director Jim Bridenstine, pushing forward a new Commercial Crew program. A mandatory change of course after the severe budget cut imposed by the government and the cancellation of the shuttle project.
Although there are other commercial companies working for NASA today, SpaceX is their preferred partner and in addition to the Falcon rockets that have been used to carry various supplies and cargo to the International Space Station, the big initiative has been to obtain the ability to carry humans to the ISS with the Crew Dragon capsule.
On May 31, a Falcon 9 rocket took off from platform 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. The facility was not chosen at random, as it was the same one used by NASA to launch Apollo 11 to the Moon and also the one that hosted the last flight of the space shuttle in 2011. A few hours later, the Crew Dragon capsule docked at the station with astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on board. It was the first time that a private spacecraft carried humans to the ISS, getting the corresponding validation by NASA.
Crew Dragon obtains NASA certification
Yesterday we learned that the agency had granted official certification for the ship. It was another critical step, as Kathy Lueders, associate administrator for NASA’s Directorate of Human Exploration and Operations Missions, noted: “Today’s signing is about the people at NASA, SpaceX and other groups who came together to complete an incredible amount of hard work to accomplish this task.”
The importance of this certification is enormous for space exploration and the future of commercial space flight, ensuring the rotation of humans in the ISS. The certified spacecraft SpaceX Crew Dragon will debut next Saturday (conditions permitting) on a mission that will take four astronauts to the International Space Station.
And beyond… Taking astronauts to the ISS is just a first step for SpaceX’s plans because the big target is Mars. Elon Musk not only wants to take some intrepid souls to the red planet, but he wants to create a “nation” there with one million humans. According to the executive’s accounts, they could build 100 spaceships per year to send about 100,000 people from Earth to Mars every time the planets’ orbits align favorably.
Considering that the distance between Earth and Mars approaches reasonably every 26 months, Musk’s plans would involve preparing up to 1,000 launches in a month to have that many humans on Mars by mid-century. Not ambitious, but miraculous, say the technicians.