NASA today laid out a newly stretched-out schedule for flying astronauts to the International Space Station from USA soil, with SpaceX's first such flight set for no earlier than next April. The Demonstration Mission 1 flight test is part of NASA's Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contract.
Although both Boeing and SpaceX still have a few milestones to reach before the launch of their respective astronaut-ferrying spacecraft, NASA is already looking ahead at resuming US -based crewed spaceflights.
On Friday, NASA plans to announce the eight astronauts who will fly either SpaceX's Crew Dragon or Boeing's CST-100 Starliner ships for the first time. "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".
NASA and commercial industry partners Boeing and SpaceX are making significant advances in preparing to launch astronauts from USA soil for the first time since the space shuttle's retirement in 2011.
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.
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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.
NASA is due to live-stream the announcement from Johnson Space Center in Texas at 11 a.m. ET (8 a.m. PT) Friday, with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine presiding. In its report, the GAO said NASA's projected "average" certification date for Boeing was December 2019, and January 2020 for SpaceX, with the potential for both companies to slip well into 2020.
Boeing continues to manufacture its Starliner spacecraft inside NASA Kennedy Space Center's Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility in Florida.
"It's very exciting getting more people in space".
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The crews will begin training to get ready for their launch.
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. Starliner and Crew Dragon will dock and undock autonomously to the space station before returning the crew safely home. "We want to do some climate science, but we aren't going to do some of the insane stuff that the previous administration did", he said.
Another capsule, Spacecraft 1, will be put through an uncrewed pad abort test during the first few months of 2019.
"We are confident we found the cause and are moving forward with corrective action", including some design changes, Boeing said this week.
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