SpaceX developed the Crew Dragon spacecraft under a NASA Commercial Crew Program contract to return human spaceflight capabilites to the United States. Ever since the agency's Space Shuttle fleet was grounded in 2011, NASA had been dependent on Russian spacecraft to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). Until May this year, SpaceX enabled NASA to launch astronauts once again from American soil.
Today, November 10, NASA announced it officially certified SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket to perform human spaceflights regularly. It is the first space launch vehicle in history to receive this certification, ever since the Space Shuttle was certified nearly 40 years ago. "SpaceX put every component of every system through its paces, including two flight tests to and from the International Space Station, demonstrations of Dragon’s escape system both on the launch pad and in-flight, over 700 tests of the spacecraft's SuperDraco engines, more than 500 joint soft-capture docking tests to validate the performance of Dragon’s docking system design, about 8,000,000 hours of hardware in the loop software testing, and nearly 100 tests and flights of Dragon’s parachutes to ensure a safe landing back on Earth—in addition to all of the knowledge gained from twenty previous successful cargo resupply missions to the space station and over forty Falcon 9 block 5 launches," SpaceX states.
The spacecraft performed its first crewed demonstration voyage to the space station on May 30. The mission, known as Demo-2, launched veteran NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken from American soil aboard Crew Dragon atop Falcon 9 to the orbiting laboratory. After a two-month-long stay, the astronauts safely returned aboard the vehicle; they crossed Earth's harsh atmosphere, and splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean. SpaceX ignited a new era in American spaceflight. --"Human spaceflight is SpaceX’s core mission, and we take seriously the responsibility that NASA has entrusted in us to safely carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station. We are humbled to help NASA usher in a new era of space exploration," the company states.
NASA’s human spaceflight certification of SpaceX for operational astronaut flights to and from the @space_station is the culmination of years of development, testing, and training → https://t.co/nTt12SNKF1 https://t.co/XcbfFx4qce— SpaceX (@SpaceX) November 10, 2020
After months of analyzing the Demo-2 mission's results and data, NASA completed the Human Rating Certification Plan today for SpaceX’s space transportation system. The certification was awarded to the aerospace company after a thorough Flight Readiness Review that took place this afternoon, in which SpaceX and NASA officials discussed the next crewed mission, known as Crew-1, that will launch over the weekend. On Saturday, November 14, SpaceX will launch NASA Astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, along with JAXA Astronaut Soichi Noguchi aboard Crew Dragon from historic Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Where a Falcon 9 rocket is ready to launch four astronauts to ISS. --“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 stated in the agency's announcement. “This certification milestone is an incredible achievement from NASA and SpaceX that highlights the progress we can make working together with commercial industry.”
"Today’s signing is about the people across NASA, SpaceX and other groups that came together to complete an unbelievable amount of hard work to accomplish this task," said Kathy Lueders, associate administrator for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operation Mission Directorate. "Certification moves us from the design and test phase into the crew rotation phase of our work, but we will not stop making sure every flight, including NASA’s Space Crew-1 mission, will be approached with the same rigor we have put into making this the best system it can be for our astronauts," she stated in a press release.
BREAKING: @NASA and @SpaceX have completed certification of #CrewDragon! I’m extremely proud to say we are returning regular human spaceflight launches to American soil on an American rocket and spacecraft. More: https://t.co/VGPPAtSll3 #LaunchAmerica pic.twitter.com/jUZx0BBPwb— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) November 10, 2020
About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.