NASA Says Boeing, SpaceX Could Launch Astronauts Next Year


Under the new schedule, SpaceX will fly an uncrewed demonstration mission in November 2018, three months later than the previous schedule released by NASA early this year. Like many spaceflight programs, development has been slow-going, with milestones regularly delayed.

The NASA statement did not disclose reasons for either company's delays, and SpaceX did not respond to questions about its revised schedule.

Each company must launch an uncrewed test flight and then a crewed test flight prior to certification by NASA for the vehicles to begin operational flights.

The setback means the first crewed test flight will be pushed back to the middle of 2019, he said. Fully 43 percent of respondents said the climate should be NASA's "top priority".

No launch date has been set for NASA's satellite fix demonstration, but the mission is expected to happen between 2020 and 2022.

The news confirmed what a recent report issued by the U.S. Government Accountability Office had predicted - that the program's timeline was unrealistically optimistic. The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held a hearing on the status of the commercial crew program in January at which GAO's Cristina Chaplain presented those results based on earlier analysis.

Part of Boeing's delay arose from a propellant leak in June during a launch-abort engine test in New Mexico.

The crewed mission will be called Demo-2 for SpaceX and Crew Flight Test for Boeing.

While the space agency has remained secretive about who might get picked for the honor of taking the first rides on board Boeing's Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon, perhaps so as not to spoil the great surprise, NASA officials did tell the Business Insider that only astronauts who are not now assigned to a space mission are eligible for the test flights of the brand-new spacecraft. An unknown number of additional astronauts is expected to be named Friday.

SpaceX designed its Crew Dragon spacecraft to launch atop the company's Falcon 9 rocket from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

At the same time, rival company SpaceX is still on track for the August launch of DM-1, the unmanned demonstration mission of its Crew Dragon capsule, note the sources. "I'm incredibly proud of the progress our team has made, and it has been inspiring to watch them work through challenges quickly, while developing a brand new human-rated spacecraft that Boeing, NASA and the nation can be proud of". Separately, SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft for Demo-1 arrived to the Cape in July for final processing.

Each test flight will provide data on the performance of the rockets, spacecraft, ground systems, and operations to ensure the systems are safe to fly astronauts.