NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in front of the Falcon 9 that will launch the next Dragon flight to the ISS. Image source: NASA.
While visiting Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station yesterday, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden announced that SpaceX has completed its milestones and will begin regular cargo deliveries in October to the International Space Station.
The milestone officially marks SpaceX's graduation from the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services development program the company began in 2006.
SpaceX in May became the first private company to dock a spacecraft to the station — an unmanned Dragon capsule — and return it to Earth.
The successful demonstration flight proved SpaceX was ready for operational missions, the first of which is expected to launch from the Cape in October.
According to an article on the NASA web site:
Through the COTS program, NASA provides investments to stimulate the American commercial space industry. As part of its COTS partnership, SpaceX became the first commercial company to resupply the space station in May, successfully launching its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft to the orbiting complex. During the historic mission, the Dragon was captured by astronauts using the station's robot arm, unloaded and safely returned to Earth carrying experiments conducted aboard ISS. Later this winter, Orbital Sciences Corp. plans to carry out its first test flight under COTS.
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.