Published: Sat, February 09, 2019
Science | By Michele Flores

NASA, SpaceX Aims For March Test Of 1st New Astronaut Capsule

NASA, SpaceX Aims For March Test Of 1st New Astronaut Capsule

There's been another slip in the schedule for NASA's commercial crew program. The capsule, which was supposed to go to the International Space Station (ISS) on January 7, has been delayed twice already since then, Engadget reported.

SpaceX will launch a Falcon 9 with the astronaut-ready space capsule from NASA's Kennedy Space Center Launchpad 39A.

The following planning dates reflect inputs by the Commercial Crew Program and the two companies and are current as of February 4, 2019.

The agency now is targeting March 2 for launch of SpaceX's Crew Dragon on its uncrewed Demo-1 test flight. The US space agency is now targeting March 2 for the launch of SpaceX's Crew Dragon and "no earlier than April" for Boeing's unmanned flight test. 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 USA to the International Space Station. There are two crewed flights planned for each, one for testing purposes and the other an actual mission.

According to NASA, United Launch Alliance is finalizing processing for the Atlas V rocket that will provide the thrust for the Starliner launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's launch complex 41.

In mid-January, a source told Sputnik that a manned Dragon 2 mission would fly to the ISS in July 2019 with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley on board.

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"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.

It would be the first launch of US astronauts into orbit, from USA soil, since NASA's shuttle program ended in 2011.

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

Both companies must prove they can perform the missions safely before being certified for NASA crew rotation missions to the International Space Station.

NASA's final now contracted Soyuz flight is scheduled for launch in July.

If the test is successful, SpaceX will carry on with the second one which got delayed to July 2019. Since the end of the Space Shuttle program, NASA has relied on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to bring astronauts to and from orbit.

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