The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has placed its first mission order to take crews to the International Space Station (ISS). According to reports, Elon Musk's SpaceX commercial space program has received approval to take NASA astronauts to the space station. The order is the second in a series of four guaranteed orders NASA has planned under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contract.
Kathy Lueders, manager of Commercial Crew Program of NASA, said it was exciting to watch companies like Boeing and SpaceX working hard on their first crew rotation missions. “It is important to have at least two healthy and robust capabilities from U.S. companies to deliver crew and critical scientific experiments from American soil to the space station throughout its lifespan”, Lueders added.
NASA has placed orders before certification, so that the companies could have enough time to prepare for mission. If everything goes as per the plan, SpaceX could launch a flight in late 2017.
Julie Robinson, ISS chief scientist, said commercial crew missions are very important as they can be helpful in meeting the demand for research on the space station in low earth orbit. It could allow the space agency to increase the astronaut crew to seven, Robinson added. Such missions set the foundation for access to future commercial research platforms, as per Robinson.
Boeing and SpaceX have chosen different paths to accomplish the program’s directives. Space has decided to field the crewed version of the company’s craft. It also opted to use the Falcon 9 booster to launch the spacecraft to orbit.