NASA concluded its extensive review of the SpaceX Crew Dragon launch system on October 10 certifying the spacecraft capable of carrying astronauts to space. The Crew Dragon is the first commercial spacecraft to receive this certification.
Following a two-day Flight Readiness Review held at NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre, the agency confirmed it had completed the signing of the Human Rating Certification Plan for SpaceX’s crew transportation system, which includes the Crew Dragon spacecraft, Falcon 9 rocket, and associated ground systems.
“I’m extremely proud to say we are returning regular human spaceflight launches to American soil on an American rocket and spacecraft,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “This certification milestone is an incredible achievement from NASA and SpaceX that highlights the progress we can make working together with commercial industry.”
The certification of the Crew Dragon concludes a more than five-year testing campaign which included several test flights.
In 2015, SpaceX and NASA completed a Crew Dragon pad abort test that examined the spacecraft’s ability to safely pull its crew away from the launch vehicle should a problem arise. This test was followed up by an in-flight abort test in January this year.
In addition to abort system testing, the Crew Dragon was also launched on two missions to the International Space Station (ISS). Demo-1 was launched in 2019 without a crew and successfully docked with the ISS for a five-day stay before returning to Earth safely. Demo-2 was the first crewed flight of a Crew Dragon carrying NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to and from the station.
The Flight Readiness Review held over the last two days was the last piece of the puzzle on the Crew Dragon’s road to the launch of Crew-1, the spacecraft’s first operational flight.
The first operational Crew Dragon, named Resilience by her crew, is expected to be launched from Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida at 19:49 EST on November 14 (00:49 UTC on November 15). The spacecraft will carry NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi to the International Space Station. Resilience and her four-person crew are expected to remain aboard the orbiting scientific outpost for a six-month stay.