1st Crewed Flights of Private Space Taxis Slip to 2019
03 August, 2018, 08:58 | Author: Sherry Houston
Boeing announced today that the uncrewed test flight of its CST-100 Starliner commercial crew vehicle will slip to the end of 2018 or early 2019, and the crewed test flight will not take place until mid-2019.
Back in 2014, the USA agreed to pay Elon Musk's aerospace company SpaceX $2.6 billion for a spacecraft that could carry the nation's astronauts into orbit. Nominally, two astronauts will be on each test flight.
Who Will Be Part of the Commercial Crew?
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. Boeing will conduct a manned Starliner flight in mid-2019. For CST-100 Starliner, there will be one from NASA and one from Boeing. The first test was set for 2017, but it was delayed to this end of summer (Boeing delaying it to the end of the year). "After the uncrewed flight tests, both companies will execute a flight test with crew prior to being certified by NASA for crew rotation missions". The suits that NASA astronauts wear during spacewalks at the International Space Station are total relics, and the last suits that were worn on the surface of something other than Earth (so, the Moon) now collect dust in museums. For Crew Dragon, both will be NASA astronauts.
Both Boeing and SpaceX are building spaceships to transport astronauts and restore U.S. access to the space station, a capacity lost when the shuttle program was retired in 2011, as planned after 30 years of operation.
The agency released the revised schedule with little fanfare ahead of a planned August 3 announcement at the Johnson Space Center of the astronauts that will fly the two companies' crewed demonstration missions, as well as on the first post-certification, or operational, missions by each company.
Numerous team members leading the unique public-private partnership believe the agency is on the cusp of something life changing with its Commercial Crew Program.
Also, the most recent planet-hunting probe of NASA-the TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite)-has begun its hunt for new worlds around close by stars, as said by the US Space organization.
NASA stands at the very edge of an incredibly exciting time in space exploration. The Obama Administration initiated a "commercial crew" program similar to commercial cargo with the goal of having two systems in operation by 2015, a four-year gap in the US ability to launch people into space. Separately, SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft for Demo-1 arrived to the Cape in July for final processing.
SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket. The new flight schedule features delays on three major flight tests - the launch abort test, the first unmanned test flight, and the first crewed launch.
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.
"The crew right now is actually working on integrated crew simulations on the flight systems", said Lueders.
The companies see launching astronauts as a step toward a near-future in which space travel reaches beyond low-earth orbit.
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