NASA, SpaceX aim for March test of 1st new astronaut capsule

  • NASA, SpaceX aim for March test of 1st new astronaut capsule

NASA, SpaceX aim for March test of 1st new astronaut capsule

Officials on Wednesday set March 2 as the latest launch date.

"The agency now is targeting March 2 for launch of SpaceX's Crew Dragon on its uncrewed Demo-1 test flight". "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".

Astronauts haven't been launched from the USA since the shuttering of NASA's longstanding shuttle program in 2011.

"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.

Blue Origin is also developing a crew capsule that might carry passengers by year's end. 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.

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. The unpiloted capsule will execute an autonomous rendezvous with the space station, moving in for docking the day after launch.

The overall commercial crew program has suffered extensive delays.

"NASA's Commercial Crew Program will return human spaceflight launches to United States soil, providing safe, reliable and cost-effective access to low-Earth orbit and the space station", the agency said, "on systems that meet safety and performance requirements". Both craft will then have to perform abort tests and a test mission with crew aboard. The Crew Dragon is equipped with rocket engines that can quickly push the ship away from a malfunctioning booster at any point from launch pad to orbit. The rocket performed a static fire test on the pad January 24 that the company said was successful. A second test flight, with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on board, is now scheduled for July. "It is March 2", the source said.

Boeing, meanwhile, is shooting for an April launch of its first Starliner capsule without a crew.

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. Unlike the Crew Dragon, the Starliner is created to land in the western United States using parachutes and airbags. Boeing plans to run this test in May, and SpaceX will perform its version in June. Operational flights will begin sometime thereafter, assuming everything goes well.