NASA Targets Crew Dragon Launch on March 2, Pushes Starliner's to April

09 February, 2019, 20:58 | Author: Tara Reeves
  • Test Firing of Falcon 9 Rocket

NASA announced Wednesday that the first uncrewed test launches of SpaceX's Crew Dragon spaceship and Boeing's Starliner have been pushed back yet again.

SpaceX's "Crew Dragon" capsule will be used for both launches, the second of which will send two U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station.

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 Crew Dragon, which is created to take astronauts to the ISS, will need to undergo its first uncrewed test flight before next steps.

It will also be the first time in history a privately-built spacecraft will dock with the International Space Station.

The next big box to check after these demonstration flights will be tests of the private vehicles' emergency escape systems, which would get the capsules away from danger if a problem arose during launch. NASA also wants to have the Crew Dragon approved to take astronauts to the ISS by late 2019. The Starliner will blast off from pad 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, riding into space atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket.

Boeing Starliner Capsule
View Slideshow Boeing Starliner Capsule NASA

"We are excited about seeing the hardware we have followed through development, integration, and ground testing move into flight".

These initial flights in the Commercial Crew Program will be unmanned.

The date to resuming launches of USA astronauts from the Space Coast is slipping into late 2019, according to the new launch timeline updated by NASA.

More time is still needed to complete testing, training and safety reviews, according to NASA.

The agency's Commercial Crew Program has been working with SpaceX "throughout the month of January" to make sure it is "ready to learn critical information that will further help us to fly our crews safely", officials said. An "uncrewed" test is supposed to go down in April.

NASA's final now contracted Soyuz flight is scheduled for launch in July. Following the test flights, NASA will review performance data and resolve any necessary issues to certify the systems for operational missions. Boeing will run a pad abort test no earlier than May 2019 now, while SpaceX will perform an in-flight abort test in June. This way, the agency will no longer need to rely on the Russian Soyuz capsule.

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