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techkenyot.com February 21, 2019


Commercial crew test flight schedule slips again

09 February 2019, 08:56 | Edward Lowe

SpaceX, Boeing (and NASA) Push Back 1st Test Launches of Private Spaceships

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket lifts off from historic launch pad 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral Florida US

SpaceX and Boeing are developing commercial space capsules - called Crew Dragon and CST-100 Starliner, respectively - to carry NASA astronauts to and from the orbiting lab. The Commercial Crew Program was originally scheduled to get off the ground in January with the launch of SpaceX's Demo-1, followed by Boeing's Orbital Flight Test in March.

After the Crew Dragon completes its first test flight, SpaceX aims to have the capsule's first manned mission take place in July, which is a bit later than planned.

Boeing also plans to test-fly their capsule, dubbed the Starliner, possibly as soon as April.

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NASA officially made the announcement of the March 2 demonstration flight of the new Crew Dragon spacecraft on Wednesday, which just happens to be on the one-year anniversary of SpaceX's debut of its Falcon Heavy rocket.

Assuming the in-flight test goes well and no other major problems crop up, NASA and SpaceX hope to launch another Crew Dragon this summer, this one carrying NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to the station. 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.

The overall commercial crew program has suffered extensive delays. 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. "We always learn from tests".

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"These adjustments allow for completion of necessary hardware testing, data verification, remaining NASA and provider reviews, as well as training of flight controllers and mission managers", they added. A crewed test flight, with NASA astronauts Mike Fincke and Nicole Mann, and Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson, is scheduled for no earlier than August.

If schedules hold, the crewed launches this summer will be the first to take off from USA soil carrying humans to low-Earth orbit since the end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011. After the uncrewed flight tests, Boeing and SpaceX will complete a flight test with crew prior to being certified by NASA for crew rotation missions. Both craft will then have to perform abort tests and a test mission with crew aboard.

NASA's final now contracted Soyuz flight is scheduled for launch in July. This way, the agency will no longer need to rely on the Russian Soyuz capsule.

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