Capitalism in space: NASA yesterday officially certified SpaceX’s Dragon capsule for future operational manned missions to ISS.
NASA officials gave approval Tuesday for SpaceX to begin regular crew rotation flights to the International Space Station with the launch of four astronauts set for Saturday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, signaling a transition from development to operations for the human-rated Dragon spacecraft.
Mission managers completed a two-day Flight Readiness Review Tuesday and issued a preliminary go-ahead for the launch of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon “Resilience” spacecraft Saturday at 7:49 p.m. EST (0049 GMT Sunday) with NASA commander Mike Hopkins, pilot Victor Glover, and mission specialists Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi, a veteran Japanese space flier.
The decision means that SpaceX will now be rotating crews for NASA at ISS every six months. It will also be reusing both the first stages and the capsules. Endeavour, the capsule used on the demo flight earlier this year, will be reused in the spring. Resilience, the capsule scheduled for launch on November 14th, will be reused next fall.
Since SpaceX also has a commercial manned flight planned for next fall, that will probably require a third capsule. With those three capsules they will have at least for the next few years a fleet will cover all their initial needs. Don’t be surprised if however the introduce an upgraded capsule or two along the way, based on what they learn on these initial flights.
The article had one other piece of new news concerning Boeing’s Starliner capsule. The second unmanned demo flight has now officially been delayed into the first quarter of next year, rather than late this year.
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