NASA officials have announced that the SpaceX’s Dragon space capsule has passed a key design review, moving the company one step closer to its first manned space mission.
A review of SpaceX technology was completed on June 14 at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California. NASA engineers looked over every single phase of a potential International Space Station mission to ensure the safety of everyone involved.
Among SpaceX changes are a new launch pad with astronaut support, docking capabilities of the Dragon capsule, weight and power requirements for a launch and landing sites and techniques.
Once approved the SpaceX Dragon capsule will be capable of carrying seven astronauts to and from space, ending the United States’ reliance on Russian rockets to carry American astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
To add additional layers of safety SpaceX demonstrated to NASA officials its launch abort system known as SuperDraco. SpaceX has promised to safeguard astronauts should something go wrong on the way to the space station or while returning home.
According to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk:
“The successful conclusion of the concept baseline review places SpaceX exactly where we want to be — ready to move on to the next phase and on target to fly people into space aboard Dragon by the middle of the decade.”
NASA would like at least two firms to have manned vehicles up and running by 2017. Aside from SpaceX NASA has awarded development funds over the last two years to Blue Origin, Boeing and Sierra Nevada Corporation. NASA hopes that commercializing space travel will lead to better innovation with cheaper transportation costs.
SpaceX became the first commercial company to deliver goods to the International Space Station after the company successfully launched the Dragon capsule and docked with the ISS in May 2012.