Published: Sat, February 09, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

SpaceX Astronaut Capsule Test Flight Delayed by One Week

SpaceX Astronaut Capsule Test Flight Delayed by One Week

NASA announced Wednesday that the first uncrewed test launches of SpaceX's Crew Dragon spaceship and Boeing's Starliner have been pushed back yet again.

In January, SpaceX successfully completed a static fire test of its Falcon 9 with Crew Dragon atop the rocket at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A in Florida, in preparation for Demo-1.

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's uncrewed Orbital Flight Test is targeted for launch no earlier than April", NASA officials wrote in the status update. There are two crewed flights planned for each, one for testing purposes and the other an actual mission.

The uncrewed test flights will be the first time commercially-built and operated American spacecraft designed for humans will dock to the space station. NASA and SpaceX said these first flights are "dress rehearsals" for future missions.

The next big box to check after these demonstration flights will be tests of the private vehicles' emergency escape systems, which would get the capsules away from danger if a problem arose during launch. Both flights will be tests.

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

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.

In a statement posted on the agency's website, NASA said the revised schedule will allow time for "completion of necessary hardware testing, data verification, remaining NASA and provider reviews, as well as training of flight controllers and mission managers".

The agency's Commercial Crew Program has been working with SpaceX "throughout the month of January" to make sure it is "ready to learn critical information that will further help us to fly our crews safely", officials said. The next step after that will be an in-flight test of the capsule's abort systems.

The following planning dates reflect inputs by the Commercial Crew Program and the two companies and are current as of February 4, 2019. The space agency is hoping one or both of the crew capsules will be certified as safe to fly by the end of this year.

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