Boeing Starliner Test Flights Slip

NASA-Boeing-Astronauts

The first flights were scheduled for 2018.

There's no guarantee that either SpaceX or Boeing will stick to the schedule announced today. Proving that SpaceX can safely fly NASA personnel would put Musk, the company's chief executive officer, closer to his ultimate goal of carrying human colonists to Mars.

A report issued last month by a USA government auditor said Boeing and SpaceX are unlikely to be able to send astronauts to the ISS next year, resulting in a possible gap in the U.S. presence on the spacecraft.

[I] t is possible that neither contractor would be ready [to fly a USA crew to the ISS] until August 2020, leaving a potential gap in access [to the ISS] of at least 9 months.

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.

The Commercial Crew program carries some urgency because NASA has no contingency plan to keep shuttling astronauts to and from the station after next year.

NASA also revealed that the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft "packed with science and hardware" will return to Earth on Friday from the International Space Station.

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Tomorrow, NASA will announce the chosen crew for the first Commercial Crew flights and probably add more information on Boeing's and SpaceX flights.

Neither SpaceX nor Boeing is expected to be ready to carry out flights with people on board by that date because of various delays in certifying their programs, the independent Government Accountability Office said in its July report. However, NASA indicated in April that it may "operationalize" the Boeing test flight and fly three, instead of two crew.

The test flights and missions aboard Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft, slated for as early as April 2019, will "begin a new era in America spaceflight", the US space agency said.

In March, astronaut Eric Boe visited Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Boeing had planned to start with the pad abort test, which would make use of a "pusher" rocket system created to throw the capsule clear of its launch vehicle in the event of an emergency.

SpaceX said it would fly crews by April. Nominally, two astronauts will be on each test flight. "We want to do some climate science, but we aren't going to do some of the insane stuff that the previous administration did", Mick Mulvaney, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, said in May 2017 while discussing Trump's first budget proposal. There, the spacecraft underwent testing in the In-Space Propulsion Facility-the world's only facility capable of testing full-scale upper-stage launch vehicles and rocket engines under simulated high-altitude conditions.

"This was above and beyond the NASA requirement in the contract", said Kathy Lueders, Commercial Crew Program manager at NASA Kennedy. For Crew Dragon, both will be NASA astronauts.

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