SpaceX has completed two additional milestones of its commercial crew integrated capability (CCiCap) agreement with NASA, having successfully presented a human spaceflight certification plan review and pad abort test review.
The two reviews mark the fifth and sixth, respectively, of SpaceX's 14 CCiCap milestones. Together they will earn SpaceX $50 million in development money from NASA.
The actual abort test, which will ignite the SuperDraco escape engines, will shoot the Dragon capsule at high speeds off the top of a simulated Falcon 9 launch vehicle to test potential abort scenarios.
The certification review shows in detail how SpaceX intends to certify both the Falcon 9 and Dragon capsule to fly astronauts for NASA. Human spaceflight ratings require higher tolerances and greater protections for launch systems than their uncrewed counterparts.
The two reviews were meant to be finished in March and May 2013 respectively. SpaceX intends to launch the first crewed Dragon to the International Space Station by 2015, should the programme remain on schedule and maintain sufficient funding.
The Dragon is one of three crew vehicles meant to transport astronauts to the International Space Station. The other awardees are Boeing's CST-100 capsule and Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser winged lifting body. All current transportation is done by Roscosmos, which charges the US dearly to fly Soyuz capsules and rockets.
CCiCap funding is a hot political issue in the USA, with a political battle brewing over its funding during NASA's coming budget reauthorisation.