- SpaceX will finally send humans into space in May, according to company President Gwynne Shotwell.
- Both SpaceX and Boeing are part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, and SpaceX will be the first company to launch astronauts for NASA
- The mission will last at least “a few days” and will transport a pair of NASA astronauts to the International Space Station.
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It’s been a long time coming, but NASA’s Commercial Crew program will finally produce a crewed mission in May, SpaceX says. The company says it is aiming for its first crewed launch in May, which is right around the corner and well ahead of competitor Boeing.
SpaceX announced its immediate plans on Tuesday, with President Gwynne Shotwell offering a handful of key details about how things will play out, though many of the specifics remain unclear. The current plan will see a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule carry a pair of NASA astronauts to the International Space Station for a brief visit before returning to Earth.
As CNBC reports, Shotwell was clear that there are still some hurdles that need to be passed before the mission can go ahead as planned. “We’re gunning for May. We have work to do, NASA has work to do,” she said. “We’re going to have to go through a certification process.”
One of the major question marks remaining for SpaceX and NASA is the decision over how long the mission will actually last. The length of the stay at the space station, which Shotwell described as “TBD right now,” will dictate other aspects of mission preparation. The two astronauts that are slated to make the maiden voyage in Crew Dragon — Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley — are currently in training.
Along with the reveal that May is the target month for the first crewed mission, Shotwell also confirmed that SpaceX fully plans on sending Crew Dragon capsules into space more than once. SpaceX has built a business on its reusable rocket technology, which is a cost-saving measure and also allows for more rapid turnarounds for subsequent missions.
It seems the company plans on doing the same with its crewed spacecraft. That’s hardly a surprise, especially when you consider that the cargo version of the Dragon spacecraft is already being reused for resupply missions to the ISS. All those successful flights aside, this first crewed launch will obviously be the most high-stakes mission SpaceX has ever engaged in.
Assuming all goes well, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon looks to cement its spot as the go-to for sending NASA astronauts to the space station. Meanwhile, Boeing is struggling to get its Starliner spacecraft in order after a failed test flight forced it to abort an uncrewed trip to the ISS. NASA gave the company a list of 61 things it needs to do to make things right, so it remains unclear when we’ll see that spacecraft fly again.