SpaceX Poised to Be First with Astronaut Flights, Beating Boeing

NASA-Boeing-Astronauts

NASA partnered with Boeing and SpaceX to develop the Starliner spacecraft to launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket and the Crew Dragon launching atop the Falcon 9 rocket, respectively.

Boeing and SpaceX were awarded a $6 billion contract three years ago to develop spacecraft to become the replacement vehicles to transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Those spacecraft, SpaceX's Crew Dragon and Boeing's CST-100, are now months away from their first uncrewed test flights from Cape Canaveral.

A few months ago, both companies had hoped to start flying people by the end of this year.

SpaceX and Boeing have not released updated timelines for the first flights of their respective Crew Dragon and Starliner capsules.

SpaceX and Boeing have been working on their space taxi programs for almost four years, with the aim of transporting astronauts to and from the space station for NASA. Crew for Boeing's Crew Flight Test and SpaceX's Demo-2 flights will each include at least a flight commander and pilot aboard to test out the systems. It's possible neither company will be ready to fly astronauts until August 2020, the GAO said in its report.

NASA's Commercial Crew Program is working with the American aerospace industry as companies develop and operate a new generation of spacecraft and launch systems created to carry crews safely to and from low-Earth orbit. The arrangement isn't cheap; each seat on the three-passenger Soyuz costs more than $70 million.

Also in April, SpaceX, NASA and the Department of Defense, conducted joint rescue and recovery exercises in the Atlantic Ocean off of Florida's eastern coast.

"This was above and beyond the NASA requirement in the contract", said in a statement Kathy Lueders, Commercial Crew Program manager at NASA Kennedy. It allows Americans to do without Russian Soyuz spacecraft. 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 USA ability to launch people into space. "The agency is working closely with its commercial and worldwide partners and is preparing for potential schedule adjustments normally experienced during spacecraft development". A total of 2,202 US adults were surveyed in July, and respondents were given six options to cheese from when asked about their view of NASA's role in space.

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But many experts say those are neither irrevocable nor serious steps that could show the country is honest about denuclearization. Reports last week suggested that a separate North Korean site used to develop missile engines was dismantling its facilities.

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Since June's test was created to prepare the Starliner spacecraft for the launch abort test later this summer, that procedure will have to wait a while longer until it can be rescheduled.

Each company must launch an uncrewed test flight and then a crewed test flight prior to certification by NASA for the vehicles to begin operational flights.

"We are confident we found the cause and are moving forward with corrective action", including some design changes, Boeing said this week.

"In similar fashion, NASA is empowering private industry to gain solid footing in low-Earth orbit, which will allow NASA to explore new frontiers in deep space".

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg has goals that are no less lofty.

Most people view space issues through a prism of relevance to one's daily life, said Casey Dreier, director of space policy at the Planetary Society, which lobbies for greater funding of space science and exploration.

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