Saturday marks the day SpaceX launches four astronauts into space. They'll be launched as part of the Crew-1 mission on the company's Falcon 9 rocket, and will then continue their journey to the International Space Station (ISS) on its Crew Dragon capsule spaceship.
NASA announced on Tuesday that it has officially certified SpaceX's entire system for crewed spaceflight, which makes the Crew Dragon the first commercial spacecraft to ever be given this designation.
NASA's decision comes after a thorough flight-readiness review, in which experts and officials spent two days carefully going over SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon spaceship, software, and mission operations.
Saturday won't be the first time humans are scooted into space by SpaceX. NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley hurtled into orbit in SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule. There, they spent two months aboard the ISS before returning safely back down to Earth.
The mission was part of a demo, so as to hopefully gain NASA's certified spaceflight certification — and it worked!
Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon vertical on Launch Complex 39A pic.twitter.com/hBVUHWv3Ab— SpaceX (@SpaceX) November 10, 2020
"This certification milestone is an incredible achievement from NASA and SpaceX that highlights the progress we can make working together with commercial industry," raved Jim Bridenstine, NASA's Administrator.
Saturday's Crew-1 mission liftoff will be SpaceX's longest and most critical one to date. It'll also be the first out of six round-trip missions that Elon Musk's space company has contracted with NASA.
If all goes according to plan, SpaceX's Crew-1 mission will lift off at 7:49 PM EDT on Saturday. The four astronauts on board will be Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker, and Soichi Noguchi, who will spend six months on the ISS, making this the longest human spaceflight in history.
It's a big day for SpaceX and NASA, as this is the first time in almost 40 years that the space agency has certified a human spaceflight system, per the press release.
"I could not be more proud of everyone at SpaceX and all of our suppliers who worked incredibly hard to develop, test, and fly the first commercial human spaceflight system in history to be certified by NASA," said Musk.
"This is a great honor that inspires confidence in our endeavor to return to the Moon, travel to Mars, and ultimately help humanity become multi-planetary."