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

09 February 2019

Kathy Lueders, Commercial Crew Program manager, said: "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".

SpaceX, though, has been making progress, including rolling out the Crew Dragon spacecraft atop its Falcon 9 rocket to Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in early January for tests.

NASA's Commercial Crew Program confirmed this week a delay to its planned test flight of SpaceX's Crew Dragon module.

Boeing, which is also contracting with NASA to carry astronauts to the space station, was planning a March test of its Starliner capsule, but that flight was pushed back Wednesday to no earlier than April.

NASA officially made the announcement of the March 2 demonstration flight of the new Crew Dragon spacecraft on Wednesday, which just happens to be on the one-year anniversary of SpaceX's debut of its Falcon Heavy rocket.

Crew Dragon's crew-carrying demonstration is now scheduled for July, and Starliner's for no earlier than August, according to the new NASA update.

Boeing Starliner Capsule
View Slideshow Boeing Starliner Capsule NASA

The uncrewed test flights will be the first time commercially-built and operated American spacecraft designed for humans will dock to the space station.

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". Commercial crew has continued working toward these historic missions throughout the month of January.

The agency on Wednesday selected March 2 as the date for the first unmanned test flight, and an undisclosed date in July for when United States spacemen finally get shot back into orbit from American soil. Both flights will be tests.

If schedules hold, the crewed launches this summer will be the first to take off from USA soil carrying humans to low-Earth orbit since the end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011. The agency is counting on its commercial crew program to begin operational crew rotation flights before the end of the year.

SpaceX also completed a pad abort test in 2015.

According to a Sputnik source, its unmanned mission is scheduled to launch in May, while its manned mission will go up on August 27.

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