The 21st century is bringing us to manned space missions above and beyond that of NASA’s contributions. Europe has for many years been on the forefront of space exploration, with countries, so as Israel gaining ground in its research and development of sending astronauts to outer space as well.
Needless to say, private companies have also jumped on the space bandwagon, such as the now famous SpaceX corporation, under the direction of billionaire Elon Musk.
NASA, following the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts, will provide assistance to Musk’s SpaceX company, using its Crew Dragon spacecraft for its first mission to launch astronauts to the International Space Station from U.S. soil, at its Hawthorne, California location.
“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.”
In addition, Boeing has also contracted with NASA for outer space flights.
Which company will fly its mission to the station first will be decided in 2016, but the contracts call for orders to take place prior to certification to support the lead time necessary for missions in late 2017, provided the contractors meet readiness conditions.
Commercial crew missions to the space station, on the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, will restore America’s human spaceflight capabilities and increase the amount of time dedicated to scientific research aboard the orbiting laboratory.
SpaceX’s crew transportation system has advanced in the last couple of years. The company recently demonstrated that their transportation system has reached a sufficient 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 (SpaceX’s) Crew Dragon (spacecraft) 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.”