Published: Sat, February 09, 2019
Research | By Raquel Erickson

Commercial crew test flight schedule slips again

Commercial crew test flight schedule slips again

No one will be on board for the crew Dragon's inaugural test flight to the orbiting outpost. Once they are completed, the Dragon 2 will be certified by NASA for regular flights to the space station.

Boeing's crewed launch is scheduled for August.

NASA said that work toward the commercial crew test launches continued during the month of January and was not affected by the record-setting shutdown of the federal government that lasted from December 22 to Jan. 25. If all goes well, SpaceX and NASA hope to launch a two-man crew to the International Space Station aboard a Dragon capsule in July.

If schedules hold, the crewed launches this summer will be the first to take off from US soil carrying humans to low-Earth orbit since the end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011.

Specifically, this includes tasks like additional hardware testing, more reviews from NASA, and training flight controllers and mission managers.

SpaceX will launch a Falcon 9 with the astronaut-ready space capsule from NASA's Kennedy Space Center Launchpad 39A. The Dragon test was most recently delayed from January. The launch will feature a Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Crew Dragon astronaut capsule without any crew - for now. SpaceX already has conducted a successful on-pad abort test.

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In an updated schedule released Wednesday, NASA said it is now looking at March 2 for the launch of SpaceX's Crew Dragon test flight. "It is March 2", the source said.

Whenever they take off, Behnken and Hurley plan to stay aboard the station for about a week before returning to Earth with another Atlantic Ocean splashdown.

In the meantime, Boeing has had to push the first launch of its CST-100 Starliner capsule on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral one month further, targeting April.

NASA is paying SpaceX and Boeing to provide the capsules and fly astronauts to and from the space station, allowing the space agency to focus on developing a new capsule, Orion, and rocket, Space Launch System or SLS, for transporting astronauts to the moon and, eventually, Mars. Unlike the Crew Dragon, the Starliner is created to land in the western United States using parachutes and airbags. Boeing will run a pad abort test no earlier than May 2019 now, while SpaceX will perform an in-flight abort test in June.

If all goes well, operational crew rotation flights could begin well before the end of the year.

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