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Published: Thu, August 09, 2018
Research | By Jennifer Evans

SpaceX's Cargo Dragon is Back on Earth

SpaceX's Cargo Dragon is Back on Earth

President Donald Trump fired off a celebratory tweet today to laud NASA's first astronaut crews to fly on private spacecraft built by Boeing and SpaceX, a message that also appeared to hail the president's proposed military Space Force.

For the past seven years, NASA astronauts have hitched rides to the orbiting outpost on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft - at a cost of some US$80 million a seat.

After Crew Dragon's demonstration mission with crew is complete, Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins will be the first two NASA astronauts to launch aboard Crew Dragon to the International Space Station for a long-duration mission.

"The men and women we assign to these first flights are at the forefront of this exciting new time for human spaceflight", said Mark Geyer, director of NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Victor Glover, who graduated from Cal Poly in 1999 with a degree in engineering, is one of nine astronauts who will crew the first test flight and mission of both Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon.

An unmanned Boeing flight test is scheduled for later this year, with the first crew on board in mid-2019, NASA said. Ferguson is a former NASA astronaut and space shuttle commander who now works on Boeing's Starliner program.

After successful completion of the flight tests with crew, NASA will review flight data to verify the systems meet the agency's safety and performance certification requirements.

"The goal is to have safe, reliable and cost-effective access to and from the International Space Station and foster commercial access to other potential low-Earth orbit destinations", NASA said.

The aviation companies will be conducting test flights at the end of this year and next, and astronauts will leave for the worldwide space station Cape Canaveral in Florida next spring or summer.

NASA is now assigning crew members to these test missions, and will work with both companies and the Eastern range to clear launch dates that will allow all science investigations and other operations on the ISS will not be interrupted. This will be Ms. Mann's first launch, having joined the astronaut corps in 2013.

"The next generation of American spacecraft and rockets that will launch astronauts to the International Space Station are nearing the final stages of development and evaluation". These test flights will provide invaluable data on how rockets, ground systems, operations and the spacecraft themselves perform.

There were also reports saying four astronauts that were selected back in 2015 will be the first crews during the test flights.

The Crew Dragon missions will pave the way for SpaceX's more ambitious projects, like sending the first humans to Mars as early as 2024.

According to Elon Musk and Gwynne Shotwell, Cargo Dragon was certified right from the start with a spacecraft lifespan of 3 orbital missions. Once the spacecraft is attached to the space station, it's created to stay there for 210 days. The group includes eight current NASA astronauts and one Boeing astronaut.

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