"There still are many critical steps to complete before launch and while we eagerly are anticipating these launches, we will step through our test flight preparations and readiness reviews", said Kathy Lueders, the Commercial Crew Program manager, in a press release. The Commercial Crew Program was originally scheduled to get off the ground in January with the launch of SpaceX's Demo-1, followed by Boeing's Orbital Flight Test in March.
"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.
The test flights for NASA's highly anticipated Commercial Crew Program to return astronauts to space from US soil are happening a litter later than initially expected.
The uncrewed test flights will be the first time commercially-built and operated American spacecraft designed for humans will dock to the space station. If all goes well on the upcoming uncrewed missions, test pilots could launch in the Crew Dragon as soon as July and the Starliner in August. That's a slip of one month from the previous schedule.
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The Crew Dragon will blast off towards the ISS for two weeks in a bid to prove its reliability and safety in carrying astronauts into space.
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. After the uncrewed flight tests, Boeing and SpaceX will complete a flight test with crew prior to being certified by NASA for crew rotation missions. The first unpiloted flight of Boeing's Starliner capsule is now targeted for the April timeframe.
Boeing, SpaceX and the Commercial Crew Program are actively working to be ready for the operational missions.
Unlike approaches by unpiloted Dragon cargo ships, which halt their approaches just short of the station and wait for the lab's robot arm to lock on and pull them in for berthing, the Crew Dragon will fly a computer-guided rendezvous all the way to docking at a modified port at the front of the space station. Boeing will run a pad abort test no earlier than May 2019 now, while SpaceX will perform an in-flight abort test in June.
Astronauts haven't been launched from the USA since the shuttering of NASA's longstanding shuttle program in 2011.