Billionaire Elon Musk has hit one milestone in the billionaire space race: creating a commercial spacecraft system trusted to send humans to and from the International Space Station. On Tuesday NASA gave the green light to SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and its Falcon 9 rocket, with the new crew set to depart on a six-month mission this Saturday, November 14.
Musk thanked NASA and celebrated his team’s work in becoming “the first” competitive, commercial, entrepreneurial “spaceflight system in history to be certified by NASA.”
“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,” Musk said in a statement.
In May 2020, as part of the testing process toward certification, two NASA astronauts launched from American soil in the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, a commercially built and operated American crew spacecraft, on its way to the International Space Station from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Tuesday’s certification announcement comes as the culmination of what Forbes described in May as a “giant leap” for space capitalism, and part of a “decades-long effort to transform space into a new frontier of entrepreneurship.”
“This certification milestone is an incredible achievement from NASA and SpaceX that highlights the progress we can make working together with commercial industry,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said on Tuesday. After years of reliance on Russian rocket technology, Bridenstine celebrated NASA now “returning regular human spaceflight launches to American soil on an American rocket and spacecraft.”