SpaceX garners NASA’s first approval for commercial crew transportation system

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SpaceX is one step closer to providing a taxi service to astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS) as NASA has given SpaceX the clearance in the “certification baseline review”.

Under the certification baseline review SpaceX was required to layout its plans of ferrying crew to and from the ISS using its Dragon spacecraft and the Falcon 9 rocket under its Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contract with NASA. SpaceX’s proposed plan includes a flight test phase and completion of the system development.

“During the Certification Baseline Review, SpaceX described its current design baseline including how the company plans to manufacture its Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 v.1.1 rocket, then launch, fly, land and recover the crew”, NASA announced in a press release. “The company also outlined how it will achieve NASA certification of its system to enable transport of crews to and from the space station.”

NASA is currently relying on Russian Soyuz spacecraft for ferrying astronauts to and from the ISS since it grounded its space shuttle fleet in 2011. The Commercial Crew Program (CCP) is encouraging for the fact that private players will be able to give NASA a lot of breathing space and will enable it to work on plans of sending humans farther in the solar system.

NASA’s vision of involving private players has resulted into selection of SpaceX and Boeing for provision of orbital taxi service. NASA has already awarded both the companies multibillion dollar contracts last year to complete work on the vehicles.

“On Sept. 16, the agency unveiled its selection of SpaceX and Boeing to transport U.S. crews to and from the space station using their Crew Dragon and CST-100 spacecraft, respectively”, notes NASA in the press release. “These contracts will end the nation’s sole reliance on Russia and allow the station’s current crew of six to increase, enabling more research aboard the unique microgravity laboratory.”

Over the course of next few years, SpaceX will be testing and stretching its systems, materials and concept of operations to the limits in a bid to prove that its safe to transport astronauts using its orbital taxi.

“Once certified, the Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket will be processed and integrated inside a new hangar before being rolled out for launch”, adds NASA.

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon is expected to last for up to 210 days in docked mode with the ISS providing a 24-hour safe haven to astronauts should there be any emergency in space or need a flight back home.