Privately held SpaceX has successfully a crew of NASA astronauts to the International Space Station, ushering in a new era of commercial space travel.
The Crew-1 mission featured the first launch of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft called “Resilience” with a full crew, as NASA certified Elon Musk’s venture as the first private company with an operational system to launch astronauts to-and-from space. It’s a historic milestone for SpaceX, coming after years of work to develop and test its spacecraft to fly people regularly into orbit and beyond.
Crew Dragon Resilience is carrying NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi. The astronauts are headed for the International Space Station, expected to dock with the space station on Monday evening. They will spend the next six months on board the space station, spending time conducting microgravity studies and other scientific research.
The Crew-1 mission comes less than six months after the company’s historic final demonstration mission, which launched a pair of astronauts on a test flight in May and represented the company’s first launch with people on board.
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule is an evolved version of its Cargo Dragon spacecraft, which has launched to the space station 20 times. Just as Cargo Dragon was the first privately developed spacecraft to bring supplies to the ISS, so Crew Dragon is the first privately developed spacecraft to carry people.
SpaceX developed Crew Dragon under NASA’s Commercial Crew program, which provided the company with more than $3 billion to develop the system and launch six operational missions. Crew-1 represents the first of those six missions for SpaceX, with NASA now benefiting from the investment it made in the company’s spacecraft development.