It’s been years since NASA announced that it intended to work with private industry to build spacecraft that could put American astronauts into space. SpaceX spent the years after that announcement designing, developing, and testing its rockets and Crew Dragon for carrying astronauts and cargo. NASA and SpaceX are now celebrating the completion of the Human Rating Certification Plan for the SpaceX crew transportation system.
On Tuesday, NASA completed and signed the Human Rating Certification Plan for the SpaceX crew transportation system after completing a Flight Readiness Review ahead of the Crew-1 mission. The mission will become the first commercial flight to send astronauts to the ISS from American soil since the space shuttle fleet’s retiring. NASA Administrator James Bridenstine said that he was “extremely proud” that America could return to regular human spaceflight from American soil on an American rocket and spacecraft.
Bridenstine also noted that the certification milestone was an incredible achievement for NASA and SpaceX, highlighting what can be done when the agency works with the commercial industry. The Crew Dragon, Falcon 9 rocket, and the associated ground system is the first new crew spacecraft that has been NASA certified for regular spaceflights with astronauts since the space shuttle nearly 40 years ago.
With the certification complete, the design and test phase is over, and the crew rotation phase of the work begins. SpaceX has already sent astronauts into orbit aboard its rocket and Crew Dragon capsule. In May 2020, astronauts flew aboard the rocket and spacecraft for the first time to the ISS from American soil. The test flight, docking with the space station, and safe return of the astronauts was completed without issue.
Before that first test mission with astronauts aboard, the Crew Dragon was launched into space and spent five days docked at the ISS. SpaceX integrated multiple safety systems into the spacecraft, including a system to allow the capsule to escape the launchpad in the event of danger before launch or during launch before the spacecraft reaches orbit.