NASA, SpaceX aim for March test of 1st new astronaut capsule

Postado Fevereiro 07, 2019

The Crew Dragon and Starliner spacecraft are the centerpieces of NASA's drive to resume launching US astronauts aboard USA rockets from US soil, ending the agency's sole reliance on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to ferry crew members to and from the International Space Station.

SpaceX and Boeing are developing commercial space capsules - called Crew Dragon and CST-100 Starliner, respectively - to carry NASA astronauts to and from the orbiting lab.

Assuming the in-flight test goes well and no other major problems crop up, NASA and SpaceX hope to launch another Crew Dragon this summer, this one carrying NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to the station.

Boeing is shooting for an April launch of its first Starliner capsule without a crew.

NASA has made SpaceX and Boeing responsible for transporting astronauts starting this year.

In a statement posted on the agency's website, NASA said the revised schedule will allow time for "completion of necessary hardware testing, data verification, remaining NASA and provider reviews, as well as training of flight controllers and mission managers". No specific technical issues were cited as reasons for the delays, nor was the five-week partial government shutdown in December and January. "NASA has been working together with SpaceX and Boeing to make sure we are ready to conduct these test flights and get ready to learn critical information that will further help us to fly our crews safely".

The overall commercial crew program has suffered extensive delays. Launch of the unpiloted test flight is now targeted for March 2.

SpaceX test fired the engines of a Falcon 9 rocket last month at the Kennedy Space Center's historic pad 39A to clear the way for the first test flight of the company's Crew Dragon astronaut ferry ship. Since then, the space agency has been dependent on Russian Soyuz rockets and spacecraft to perform this taxi service. That public belief extends to the White House. President Trump made a passing reference to commercial crew missions in his State of the Union address February 5.