It's been awhile since NASA has sent an astronaut to the stars from domestic soil, but it could be come commonplace soon enough. Today, the space agency announced that it ordered a second ISS crew rotation mission from Elon Musk's SpaceX. This is the fourth flight NASA has ordered through its Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contracts, and a big step forward towards eliminating the space agency's reliance on Russia for crew rotation.
Right now, all US astronauts heading to the ISS need to hitch a ride with Roscosmos -- and every flight with the Russian space agency costs NASA millions of dollars. In contrast, the Commercial Crew Program offers NASA a lot of flexibility. "With the commercial crew vehicles from Boeing and SpaceX, we will soon add a seventh crew member to space station missions," Julie Robinson, NASA's ISS chief scientist says. "Which will significantly increase the amount of crew time to conduct research."
SpaceX fills out the last of the guaranteed mission orders NASA provisioned for the Commercial Crew program -- but it's still not clear when the Dragon crew capsule will fly. The first of the CCP missions is scheduled for sometime in 2017, but NASA has yet to announce if that mission will be filled by SpaceX or Boeing. Either way, it sounds like Florida's space coast is back in business. Check out NASA's official announcement at the source link below for more details.