1st Crewed Flights of Private Space Taxis Slip to 2019


Although NASA has not yet said which astronauts will be assigned to these historic first flights, four astronauts have already been working closely with Boeing and SpaceX in the testing and development of their capsules.

The new launch schedule comes just a day before the agency will announce which astronauts will be aboard which company's test and maiden crewed flights as the space community continues its quest to bring human spaceflight back to the U.S.

NASA's Commercial Crew program intends to use one of the private United States spacecraft and stop relying on the global ones. Then it would have done the uncrewed demonstration flight, followed by the crewed demonstration flight, perhaps by the end of 2018.

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NASA's updated timeline did not provide reasons for the delays. Boeing was scheduled to launch its first crewed test mission in November 2018, with SpaceX's equivalent flight coming the next month.

NASA plans to announce the astronauts who will make the first flights aboard the Dragon and CST-100 during a presentation Friday at the Johnson Space Center.

"Safely and reliably flying commercial crew missions for NASA remains the highest priority for SpaceX", said Benji Reed, Director of Crew Mission Management at SpaceX. "The systems will be operated in the actual environment to test it and ensure it's ready for crew". Nominally, two astronauts will be on each test flight.

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John Mulholland, a Boeing vice president who's program manager for the CST-100 Starliner program, laid out the revised schedule today during a teleconference with journalists.

The Crew Dragon capsule is a next-generation spacecraft created to carry humans to ISS and other destinations, according to SpaceX. SpaceX has hinted that its first crewed flight could take place by early next year, but Mulholland declined to speculate. Crew for Boeing's Crew Flight Test and SpaceX's Demo-2 flights will each include at least a flight commander and pilot aboard to test out the systems.

These flight tests will have similar configurations to the uncrewed tests, but the crew will have the ability to interface with spacecraft displays, communicate with mission control, and practice manual controls during flight. Space station officials from around the world gave the "go" on Thursday for Dragon's release from the orbital complex.

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Among the options being considered by NASA is to use the crewed flight test as a crew rotation flight by adding a third astronaut to the mission and extending its stay from two weeks to as long as six months. Now, the White House wants to slash NASA's $21 billion budget - encouraging private-sector commercial activity in low Earth orbit as well as deeper forays into the solar system.