After the Space Shuttle program was brought to an end in 2011, NASA no longer had a spacecraft system capable of sending humans to space. As a result, it was forced to fly its astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard the Russian Soyuz space vehicle, at a cost of up to US$80 million per astronaut. As an alternative, NASA contracted with private companies such as SpaceX for the Commercial Crew Program, which is expected to cost 50% less than Soyuz once in regular operation. Up to the launch, NASA has awarded a total of US$3.1 billion for the development of the Dragon 2. The Demo-2 mission is expected to be SpaceX’s last major test before NASA certifies it for regular crewed spaceflights. Prior to that, SpaceX had sent twenty cargo missions to the ISS, but never a crewed one.
Video credit: NASA’s Kennedy Space Center