CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida - NASA announced on Friday that SpaceX was awarded a second mission to launch astronauts from U.S. soil to the International Space Station.
Commercial crew flights from Cape Canaveral on Florida’s Space Coast to the International Space Station will restore America’s human spaceflight launch capability and increase the time U.S. crews can dedicate to scientific research.
"The order of a second crew rotation mission from SpaceX, paired with the two ordered from Boeing will help ensure reliable access to the station on American spacecraft and rockets," said Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. "These systems will ensure reliable U.S. crew rotation services to the station, and will serve as a lifeboat for the space station for up to seven months."
This is the fourth and final guaranteed order NASA will make under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts. Boeing received its two orders in May and December of 2015, and SpaceX received its first order in November 2015. Both companies have started planning for, building and testing the necessary hardware and assets to carry out their first flight tests, and ultimately missions for the agency.
NASA will announce later which company will fly the first post-certification mission to the space station. Each provider’s contract includes a minimum of two and a maximum potential of six missions.
NASA said that SpaceX met the criteria for this latest award after it successfully completed interim developmental milestones and internal design reviews for its Crew Dragon spacecraft, Falcon 9 rocket and associated ground systems.
"We’re making great progress with Crew Dragon, with qualification of our docking adapter and initial acceptance testing of the pressure vessel qualification unit completed" said Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX president and chief operating officer. “We appreciate the trust NASA has placed in SpaceX with the order of another crew mission and look forward to flying astronauts from American soil next year."
SpaceX is building four Crew Dragon spacecraft at its Hawthorne facility -- two for qualification testing and two for flight tests next year. The company also is in the process of modifying Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, from which the company will launch future crewed missions to the space station.
ABOVE IMAGE: This artist's concept shows a SpaceX Crew Dragon docking with the International Space Station, as it will during a mission for NASA's Commercial Crew Program. NASA is partnering with Boeing and SpaceX to build a new generation of human-rated spacecraft capable of taking astronauts to the station and back to Earth, thereby expanding research opportunities in orbit. Credit: SpaceX