NASA Clears SpaceX for Commercial Space Station Cargo Missions
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on Monday cleared SpaceX, of Hawthorne, Calif., for the start of regular commercial re-supply missions to the International Space Station.
The first of at least a dozen missions for which SpaceX is under a $1.6 billion NASA contract to launch is slated to lift off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., in October. The agreement between NASA and SpaceX was signed in late 2008, while Dragon cargo operations were still in development.
Bolden made the declaration during a visit to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to review the agency’s commercial cargo and crew initiative activities.
“We’re working to open a new frontier for commercial opportunities in space and create job opportunities right here inFloridaand across theUnited States,” said Bolden. “And we’re working to in-source the work that is currently being done elsewhere and bring it right back here to the U. S. where it belongs.”
NASA has relied onRussia to launch astronauts to and from the ISS since the shuttle was retired in mid-2011. The agency also looks toRussia, the European Space Agency and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency to deliver supplies.
SpaceX earned the promotion in the aftermath of a successful May demonstration mission to the ISS in which the company’s Falcon 9 /Dragon rocket and cargo capsule combination successfully rendezvoused and berthed with the six person ISS.
Orbital Sciences Corp. ofVirginia is working toward a similar ISS cargo delivery capability this year as well.
The space agency just announced a third round of commercial crew development activities with SpaceX, Boeing andSierra Nevada. The first commercial crew missions to the space station are anticipated by 2017.