SpaceX is scheduled to launch the first of its 12 contracted cargo flights to the International Space Station in October, 2012. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden announced Thursday at Kennedy Space Center that SpaceX is now fully certified to ferry cargo to the space station. While the company's Dragon capsule did bring cargo to the ISS during its initial flight in May, that was considered just a test flight. Now comes a series of 'real' cargo runs.
Bolden also announced some other commercial milestones under NASA's Commercial Resupply Services Program that "progress toward a launch of astronauts from U.S. soil in the next 5 years," he said.
"We're working to open a new frontier for commercial opportunities in space and create job opportunities right here in Florida and across the United States," Bolden said. "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."
Bolden also announced NASA partner Sierra Nevada Corp. has conducted its first milestone under the agency's recently announced Commercial Crew integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative. The milestone, a program implementation plan review, marks an important first step in Sierra Nevada's efforts to develop a crew transportation system with its Dream Chaser spacecraft.
CCiCap is an initiative of NASA's Commercial Crew Program (CCP) and an Obama administration priority. The objective of the CCP is to facilitate the development of a U.S. commercial crew space transportation capability with the goal of achieving safe, reliable and cost-effective access to and from the space station and low Earth orbit. After the capability is matured, it is expected to be available to the government and other customers. NASA could contract to purchase commercial services to meet its station crew transportation needs later this decade.
Explore further: Dawn spacecraft captures best-ever view of dwarf planet