SpaceX, Boeing Commercial Crew flights delayed by NASA (again)

Test Firing of Falcon 9 Rocket

"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".

NASA and SpaceX are now aiming for a March debut of the first capsule from a private company created to fly astronauts to the International Space Station. Though they're essentially practice runs, they're still big launches, as the Commercial Crew Program will eventually be used to take astronauts from the U.S. to the International Space Station.

Boeing, meanwhile, is shooting for an April launch of its first Starliner capsule without a crew. If the demo goes well, two NASA astronauts will take a test flight in July. NASA is giving itself just under a month to make sure everything is ready for SpaceX Demo-1 on March 2, so we'll see soon enough if these delays have provided enough time to ensure we're ready for launch.

The launch would mark the first orbital flight of a private space taxi.

Of course, this new timeline also assumes that these initial test flights aren't delayed further. NASA and SpaceX said these first flights are "dress rehearsals" for future missions.

The Crew Dragon will blast off towards the ISS for two weeks in a bid to prove its reliability and safety in carrying astronauts into space.

Boeing Starliner Capsule
View Slideshow Boeing Starliner Capsule NASA

"There still are many critical steps to complete before launch and while we eagerly are anticipating these launches, we will step through our test flight preparations and readiness reviews", explained CCP manager Kathy Lueders. The Crew Dragon demonstration flight was originally planned for January.

Aeroplane manufacturer Boeing will conduct a similar test run of its own spacecraft, the CST-100 Starliner, on an unspecified date in April.

"We are excited about seeing the hardware we have followed through development, integration, and ground testing move into flight". Both craft will then have to perform abort tests and a test mission with crew aboard.

Boeing, SpaceX and the Commercial Crew Program are actively working to be ready for the operational missions.

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.

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