SpaceX, Boeing Commercial Crew flights delayed by NASA (again)

SpaceX, Boeing Commercial Crew flights delayed by NASA (again)

SpaceX, Boeing Commercial Crew flights delayed by NASA (again)

The commercial crew program has suffered multiple delays due to technical issues and congressional funding shortfalls, but NASA managers say the new spacecraft are close to being ready for their initial test flights. The capsule, which was supposed to go to the International Space Station (ISS) on January 7, has been delayed twice already since then, Engadget reported.

A look at SpaceX's first Crew Dragon spacecraft attached to its Falcon 9 rocket as both sit inside their hangar at Launch Pad 39A of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida in January 2019.

The following planning dates reflect inputs by the Commercial Crew Program and the two companies and are current as of February 4, 2019.

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Crew Dragon's crew-carrying demonstration is now scheduled for July, and Starliner's for no earlier than August, according to the new NASA update. The Starliner will blast off from pad 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, riding into space atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket.

While the schedule for the crewed test flights are little changed from previous schedules, there's an expectation in the industry that those dates, too, will slip depending on when the uncrewed test flights take place and their outcomes.

The revised dates, NASA said in its statement, "allow for completion of necessary hardware testing, data verification, remaining NASA and provider reviews, as well as training of flight controllers and mission managers". NASA officials said SpaceX's Demo-2 launch with crew is now slated for July and Boeing's first crew flight test with astronauts is no earlier than August. Both the manned and unmanned flights will be tests. NASA also wants to have the Crew Dragon approved to take astronauts to the ISS by late 2019.

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"We are excited about seeing the hardware we have followed through development, integration, and ground testing move into flight".

The Crew Dragon and Starliner spacecraft are the centerpieces of NASA's drive to resume launching USA astronauts aboard US rockets from US soil, ending the agency's sole reliance on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to ferry crew members to and from the International Space Station. "NASA has been working together with SpaceX and Boeing to make sure we are ready to conduct these test flights and get ready to learn critical information that will further help us to fly our crews safely".

If the test is successful, SpaceX will carry on with the second one which got delayed to July 2019. Since then, the space agency has been dependent on Russian Soyuz rockets and spacecraft to perform this taxi service.

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