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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launching with a Crew Dragon atop. Photo: NASA TV/SpaceX

SpaceX completed a major test on Sunday, paving the way for the company's first crewed launch to the International Space Station. According to founder Elon Musk, SpaceX could launch its first astronauts for NASA by the second quarter of this year.

Why it matters: NASA holds contracts with SpaceX and Boeing to fly astronauts to the station, returning crewed launches to the U.S. for the first time since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011.

  • SpaceX and Boeing's systems are designed to end U.S. reliance on Russian rockets for rides to orbit.

What's happening: Sunday's test was a shakeout of SpaceX's Crew Dragon abort system designed to whisk astronauts away from a failing rocket.

  • While the test appeared to go off without a hitch, SpaceX and NASA will take a detailed look at the data collected during Crew Dragon's flight and splashdown in the Atlantic to assess exactly how it performed.
  • NASA is also working to figure out whether they want the first crewed flight of SpaceX's system to be a long-duration mission to the station or whether it's best to make it a shorter flight.
  • "If it's going to be a longer duration, then we have to have some additional training for our astronauts to actually be prepared to do things on the International Space Station that we weren't planning to have that initial test crew necessarily do," NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said during a post-test press conference.

Between the lines: NASA is also hedging its bets and purchasing another seat aboard Russia's Soyuz for its astronauts, according to Bridenstine, potentially taking some of the pressure off Boeing and SpaceX.

Go deeper: SpaceX launches test of abort system to keep astronauts safe

Go deeper

The risks and rewards of charging state-backed hackers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Last week’s stunning indictment of three North Korean hackers laid bare both the advantages and drawbacks of the U.S. government’s evolving strategy of using high-profile prosecutions to publicize hostile nation-state cyber activities.

Why it matters: Criminal charges can help the U.S. establish clear norms in a murky and rapidly changing environment, but they may not deter future bad behavior and could even invite retaliation against U.S. intelligence officials.

14 mins ago - World

Scoop: Netanyahu asked Biden to keep Trump's sanctions on International Criminal Court

ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. Photo: Bas Czerwinski/ANP/AFP via Getty

Netanyahu asked Biden in their first phone call last week to keep sanctions imposed by the Trump administration on the International Criminal Court (ICC) in place, Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: Israeli officials are concerned that removing the sanctions would hamper Israel's efforts to stop a potential war crimes investigation into Israel, and that the court's prosecutor could see it as a signal that the U.S. isn't firmly opposed to that investigation.

Updated 1 hour ago - Health

FDA analysis finds Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine is safe and effective

Photo: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration's staff released a briefing document on Wednesday endorsing Johnson & Johnson's one-shot coronavirus vaccine as safe and effective.

The latest: Assuming the FDA issues an emergency use authorization "without delay," meaning as soon as this weekend, White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients said J&J will have 3 million to 4 million ready for distribution next week.