Kennedy Space Center CNN Business  — 

When Elon Musk founded SpaceX in 2002, the company’s assigned goal was to get humans into space.

Now that NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley have made it aboard the International Space Station, Musk is breathing a sigh of relief that his company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket performed successfully during this weekend mission. Now SpaceX can officially consider itself the first-ever company to send humans into orbit aboard a privately owned spacecraft.

But it’s not over yet. Critical weeks of safety and technical reviews of the spacecraft lie ahead before NASA will officially designate Crew Dragon as an “operational” vehicle. Then, another Crew Dragon spacecraft must be deemed ready for the next mission, dubbed Crew-1, that will carry four more astronauts to the space station: NASA astronauts Victor Glover, Michael Hopkins, Shannon Walker and Japan’s Soichi Noguchi.

NASA is hoping to launch Crew-1 in August.

The mission Behnken and Hurley began over the weekend won’t be considered a success until they return safely to Earth, but their mission is expected to last up to 110 days, and the journey home will be just as perilous as the ride to orbit.

Crew Dragon’s debut, however, is a significant milestone for SpaceX and NASA, and this mission was one of the biggest items both organizations needed to check off the list before turning to larger ambitions.

Access to the International Space Station

The United States hasn’t launched its own astronauts into space since the Space Shuttle program ended in 2011. Since then, NASA’s astronauts have had to travel to Russia and train on the country’s Soyuz spacecraft. Those seats have cost NASA as much as $90 million each.

But the space agency chose not to create its own replacement for the Shuttle. Instead, it asked the private sector to develop a spacecraft capable of safely ferrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station — a controversial decision considering that NASA had never before outsourced the development of a human-rated spacecraft. The thinking was that companies could drive down costs and spur innovation, and NASA would have more time and resources to focus on exploring deeper into the solar system.

In 2014, NASA awarded two contracts: $4.2 billion to Boeing to build its Starliner vehicle, and $2.6 billion to SpaceX, which planned to create a crew worthy version of the Dragon spacecraft that was already flying cargo to and from the International Space Station. NASA had already put money toward SpaceX’s development of the Dragon spacecraft used for transporting cargo, and the space agency has said Boeing received more money because it was designing the Starliner from scratch.