In the last few weeks, SpaceX has taken some giant leaps toward being ready to send astronauts back into space via a commercial spaceship. Most recently, SpaceX gave the public its best look at the Crew Dragon spaceship for astronauts.
SpaceX also took to its Instagram to post video of the Crew Dragon's tests. Those tests were being conducted earlier at the Naval Air Facility El Centro in Southern California.
The space capsule itself is being held and overseen by NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. That research center, according to NASA, is "the world's only facility capable of testing full-scall upper-stage launch vehicles and rocket engines under simulated high-altitude conditions."
"Once complete, Crew Dragon will travel to Kennedy Space Center in Florida ahead of its first flight," SpaceX representatives wrote in an image post last week.
The Crew Dragon isn't alone in its commercial taxi endeavors. Boeing's CST-100 Starliner is also currently in testing stages. Both crafts will carry seven astronauts. The Crew Dragon will launch using SpaceX's impressive Falcon 9 rockets. The Starliner will use United Launch Alliance's Atlas V rockets.
These commercial spaceship launches mark the first time U.S. astronauts launch from the United States since NASA's space shuttle program came to a close in July 2011. In order to transport astronauts to the International Space Station, NASA has used the Russian Soyuz rockets and ships.
Launching Through the Red Tape
While the Crew Dragon continues to undergo significant testing, other company leaders are fighting for SpaceX to be able to reliably launch as frequently as the company intends.
SpaceX Director of Government Affairs Caryn Schenewerk reaffirmed that the company still wanted to conduct more than 25 launches in 2018. This meant congressional leaders during the hearing had to consider how to facilitate companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin quickly and safely launching.
Officials from the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), ULA, Blue Origin, and SpaceX all testified to some of the biggest challenges in meeting launch goals: red tape. The officials noted the sluggishness of acquiring the appropriate licenses and also the awkward combination of launch vehicle operation and standards alongside federal air traffic control systems.