SpaceX Crew Dragon flight test a success

April 1st, 2019

A two-stage SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for Demo-1, the first uncrewed mission of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. Photo: NASA

For the first time in history, a commercially-built and operated American crew spacecraft and rocket, which launched from American soil, successfully made its way to the International Space Station and back home.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft lifted off March 2 on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

About six hours after departing the space station March 8, Crew Dragon splashed down at 8:45 a.m. EST approximately 230 miles off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Fla. SpaceX retrieved the spacecraft from the Atlantic Ocean and transported it back to port on the company’s recovery ship.

“Today’s successful re-entry and recovery of the Crew Dragon capsule after its first mission to the International Space Station marked another important milestone in the future of human spaceflight,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “I want to once again congratulate the NASA and SpaceX teams on an incredible week. Our Commercial Crew Program is one step closer to launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil. I am proud of the great work that has been done to get us to this point.”
Later on Crew Dragon’s return, Bridenstine added, “Today’s successful (return) marks a new chapter in American excellence, getting us closer to once again flying American astronauts on American rockets from American soil. I proudly congratulate the SpaceX and NASA teams for this major milestone in our nation’s space history. This first launch of a space system designed for humans, and built and operated by a commercial company through a public-private partnership, is a revolutionary step on our path to get humans to the Moon, Mars and beyond.”

Known as Demo-1, SpaceX’s inaugural flight with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is an important uncrewed mission designed to test the end-to-end capabilities of the new system. It brings the nation one-step closer to the return of human launches to the space station from the United States for the first time since 2011 – the last space shuttle mission.
Teams still have work to do after this flight to prepare the spacecraft to fly astronauts. The best way to advance the system design was to fly this spacecraft and uncover any other areas or integrated flight changes that might be required.

The program demonstrates NASA’s commitment to investing in commercial companies through public-private partnerships and builds on the success of American companies, including SpaceX, already delivering cargo to the space station. Demo-1 is a critical step for NASA and SpaceX to demonstrate the ability to safely fly missions with NASA astronauts to the orbital laboratory.

“I’d also like to express great appreciation for NASA,” said Elon Musk, CEO and lead designer at SpaceX. “SpaceX would not be here without NASA, without the incredible work that was done before SpaceX even started and without the support after SpaceX did start.”

NASA Orders Second Boeing Crew Mission to Space Station

December 22nd, 2015

This artist's concept shows Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, currently under development for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, docking to the International Space Station. Credits: NASA

This artist’s concept shows Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, currently under development for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, docking to the International Space Station. Credits: NASA

NASA took an important step Dec. 18 to establish regular crew missions that will launch from the United States to the International Space Station with the order of its second post-certification mission from Boeing Space Exploration of Houston.

“Once certified by NASA, the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon each will be capable of two crew launches to the station per year,” said Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. “Placing orders for those missions now really sets us up for a sustainable future aboard the International Space Station.”

This is the third in a series of four guaranteed orders NASA will make under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts. Boeing and SpaceX received their first orders in May and November, respectively, and have started planning for, building and procuring the necessary hardware and assets to carry out their first missions for the agency. NASA will identify at a later time which company will fly a mission to the station first.

Boeing met the criteria for NASA to award the company its second mission with the successful completion of interim developmental milestones and internal design reviews for its Starliner spacecraft, United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket and associated ground system.

Boeing’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida is seeing the buildup of the Starliner structural test article, and nearby, the main column of the crew access tower is in place at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41. Flight trainers are nearing completion in Boeing’s St. Louis facility and rocket parts are starting to come together in Huntsville, Ala.

“As our company begins its second century, our Starliner program continues Boeing’s tradition of space industry innovation with commercial service to the space station,” said John Mulholland, vice president and manager of Boeing’s commercial crew program. “We value NASA’s confidence in the Starliner system to keep their crews safe.”

Commercial crew missions to the space station will restore America’s human spaceflight capabilities and increase the amount of time dedicated to scientific research off the Earth, for the Earth and beyond. A standard commercial crew mission to the station will carry up to four NASA or NASA-sponsored crew members and about 220 pounds of pressurized cargo. The spacecraft will remain at the station for up to 210 days, available as an emergency lifeboat during that time.

“With the commercial crew vehicles from Boeing and SpaceX, we will soon add a seventh crew member to International Space Station missions, which will significantly increase the amount of crew time to conduct research,” said Kirk Shireman, manager for the International Space Station Program. “This will enable NASA and our partners to ramp up the important research being done every day for the benefit of all humanity.”

Orders under the CCtCap contracts are made two to three years prior to actual mission dates in order to provide time for each company to manufacture and assemble the launch vehicle and spacecraft. Each company also must successfully complete a certification process before NASA will give the final approval for flight. Each provider’s contract includes a minimum of two and a maximum potential of six missions.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manages the CCtCap contracts and is working with each company to ensure commercial transportation system designs and post-certification missions will meet the agency’s safety requirements. Activities that follow the award of missions include a series of mission-related reviews and approvals leading to launch. The program also will be involved in all operational phases of missions to ensure crew safety.