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The company’s Falcon-9 rocket and capsule, known as Dragon, is set to blast off into space on May 27, carrying two astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) in its first ever crewed flight. The Demo-2 mission will also be the first orbital human spaceflight to depart from American soil since NASA retired its space shuttle fleet in July 2011. The US space agency has had to rely in the meantime on Russian Soyuz rockets and spacecraft to send its astronauts to the space station.
NASA’s officials announced the successful conclusion to the pre-flight tests in statement on Friday.
They said: “The Flight Readiness Review has concluded, and NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission is cleared to proceed toward liftoff on the first crewed flight of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.”
Next week’s launch will be a key moment in NASA’s strategy to change the way it conducts its space exploration programmes.
Its commercial crew programme, initiated in 2010, selected both SpaceX and aerospace heavyweight Boeing to develop crew transportation services.
The agency awarded SpaceX $2.6 billion to finish development of the Crew Dragon-Falcon 9 system and fly six operational crewed missions to the ISS.
Boeing got a similar $4.2 billion deal at the same time, which the aerospace company will fulfil using a capsule called CST-100 Starliner.
The arrangement with the companies means they can also sell seats in their vehicles to other space agencies, companies or indeed wealthy individuals.
“We are on the cusp of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil yet again,” explained Nasa Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
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“This time we’re doing it differently than we’ve ever done it before.
“We are partnering with commercial industry with the intent that they would go get customers that are not NASA and drive down our costs and increase the access to space.”
The two NASA astronauts, Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, flew into KSC on Thursday to put the finishing touches to preparations for their historic mission.
They had been in quarantine at NASA’s human spaceflight headquarters in Texas.
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As part of those final preparations, the astronauts conducted a “crew dry dress” rehearsal.
This involved the men suiting up, riding out to the pad and even climbing into their capsule as a dummy run to ensure everyone understands their role.
Commenting on the Dragon capsule, Doug Hurley said: “It’s just an amazing vehicle.
“It’s definitely not the space shuttle. It’s much smaller; it’s a capsule.
“It’s state-of-the-art from a technology standpoint, and we are so excited to be in a real spaceship and not the simulator here in just a week.”
His co-pilot said the pair felt the weight of history, as the lunch on Wednesday will be only the fifth time American astronauts will have flown to orbit in a brand new spacecraft design.
“We certainly take inspiration from all those who’ve come before us”, he told reporters.
“Whenever we’ve had a chance to speak with the astronauts who had those opportunities – the thing they’ve emphasised is, in the moment, being as prepared and ready for whatever may come your way as possible.”
For the moment, this model only covers flights to a few hundred kilometres above the Earth, to the ISS.
But eventually the aim is to extend the concept to operations in deeper space.
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