SpaceX Wins NASA Blessing to Ferry Astronauts to Space Station
Elon Musk, chief executive officer of Space Exploration Technologies Corp. and Tesla Inc., speaks during an event in Texas, U.S. (Photographer: Bronte Wittpenn/Bloomberg)

SpaceX Wins NASA Blessing to Ferry Astronauts to Space Station

SpaceX won formal NASA approval to carry astronauts to the International Space Station, reaching a milestone for a commercial space vehicle three months after completing a crewed test mission.

The certification enables SpaceX’s Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket to begin regular crew rotations to the orbiting lab, with the next flight planned for Nov. 14 with four astronauts. NASA granted final approval after a two-day flight readiness review that concluded Tuesday, making the SpaceX vehicles the first that the U.S. agency has rated for humans since the Space Shuttle.

“This is a great honor that inspires confidence in our endeavor to return to the Moon, travel to Mars, and ultimately help humanity become multi-planetary,” Elon Musk, founder of Space Exploration Technologies Corp., said in a statement.

SpaceX’s first operational flight for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is scheduled for 7:49 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday, with docking at the station expected eight and a half hours later. A backup launch attempt would be at 7:27 p.m. on Sunday. A second mission is set for March 2021 with a third in September or October.

Boeing Co. is also a participant in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to fly astronauts to the station, but the company has suffered delays following a botched uncrewed test flight of its Starliner vehicle in December 2019. Boeing plans a second test, also without crew, in the first quarter of 2021, said Steve Stich, NASA’s commercial crew manager.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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