The space agency has tentatively approved the SpaceX approach, called "load and go". "We came to the conclusion that it was an acceptable risk that we were willing to take," said Patrick G. Forrester, head of NASA's Astronaut Office.
Other issues that need to be addressed before a crew flight include parachute certification and the resolution of a propeller design problem where parts can become detached if they become too cold.
Russia, the main partner of the International Space Station, is also worried that Crew Dragon did not have a backup system to avoid the capsule if the main computer had to crash. But on Thursday, NASA officials said they had managed to dispel these concerns by adding precautionary measures.
In case of further delays, NASA could buy more Soyuz seats from the Russians.
When the Obama administration announced the start of the commercial crew program in 2009, NASA was already planning to develop a much more expensive rocket, the Ares I, as part of a project to send back astronauts to the moon. But NASA rockets and the lunar program have been canceled.
The Trump administration is once again interested in the moon, but retains the commercial approach.
In themselves, the Boeing and SpaceX satellites do not push NASA further into solar systems; both are designed only to go into low Earth orbit, the same journey that Soyuz has been doing for decades.
The hope that space trade can stimulate a new space industry has yet to materialize. NASA, however, seems to be applying a similar approach to new programs, including a call for private companies to develop a spacecraft that allows astronauts to reach the surface of the moon. This could lead to unexpected results in the space sector.
"I think we are at a convenient time of the Wright brothers for a commercial space," In an interview, Phil Larson, who has been advisor on space at the Obama White House and is now associate dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Colorado, said in an interview. "We will have a new fleet of American spacecraft. Anything is possible, and I think the markets will come up. "