After a series of milestone flights and a history making docking with the International Space Station earlier this year, SpaceX is well on its way to its first resupply mission in October. Now, a major step in that process has finally been completed. SpaceX is officially approved by NASA to start making resupply flights to the ISS. The era of commercial spaceflight has begun.
The announcement was made by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden just yesterday from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This is the culmination of SpaceX’s participation in NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program and marks the beginning of the young rocket company’s $1.6 billion contract that will pay for 12 resupply flights to the ISS. While SpaceX has successfully completed the COTS program, it still needs to human rate both its rocket and capsule to complete the Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program in order to fly astronauts to the ISS. Once that is done, you can pretty much rest assured that the Dragon will be mankind’s main conveyance to and from low Earth orbit.
There is still one other contender in the COTS program by the name of Orbital Sciences Corp. This company has yet to even have their 1st test flight but when they complete their final milestone for COTS, will receive a $1.9 billion dollar contract for just 8 resupply flights to the ISS. Orbital’s spacecraft, called the Cygnus, also will only be capable of carrying less than half of the payload that Dragon can to the ISS. Judging by this, if Orbital Sciences doesn’t figure out some way to get their costs down, it’s not very likely that they’ll be getting their contract renewed.
Congratulations Mr. Musk, you’ve done it. Now start working on that Falcon Heavy and take us to Mars. Go SpaceX!