NASA has officially ordered its first commercial crew mission from private spaceflight company SpaceX. That means SpaceX has NASA’s authority to proceed with the first crewed launch of the company’s Crew Dragon capsule, which can carry up to seven people in lower Earth orbit. The mission is slated for sometime in late 2017, but the exact date has not yet been determined.
SpaceX and Boeing hold contracts with NASA through the space agency’s Commercial Crew Program. The initiative tasks the two companies with creating and operating spacecraft that can ferry NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Currently, NASA is without a primary space vehicle and must rely on the Russian Soyuz rocket, which costs $80 million to get just one US astronaut into lower Earth orbit. Commercial Crew will allow American astronauts to get to the ISS on American-made vehicles once again, and for much lower costs.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.