SpaceX poised to beat Boeing with first astronaut flights

NASA-Boeing-Astronauts

NASA-Boeing-Astronauts

Last month's problem with leaky rocket engine valves has forced Boeing to rearrange the sequence of tests for its Starliner space taxi, with the first crewed flight to the International Space Station now planned for no earlier than mid-2019.

Congress ultimately boosted NASA's overall budget for the fiscal year that began on October 1 to almost $20.7 billion, part of a defense spending binge that also benefited nondefense projects. On Sept. 16, 2014, the agency announced that Boeing and SpaceX would share $6.8 billion to develop independent space taxis, the first new US crewed spacecraft since the shuttle.

However, as the Inquisitr reported earlier today, Boeing has just announced it will be delaying the entire launch schedule of its Starliner spacecrafts, aiming for a first crewed test flight in mid-2019.

"I'm incredibly proud of the progress our team has made, and it has been inspiring to watch them work through challenges quickly, while developing a brand new human-rated spacecraft that Boeing, NASA and the nation can be proud of", Mulholland added.

In a blog post, NASA said SpaceX plans to launch its Crew Dragon spacecraft on an unpiloted test flight in November. He will make the announcement at NASA's Johnson Space Center Friday morning.

In June, the Crew Dragon capsule for SpaceX's uncrewed flight test, Demo-1, arrived at Plum Brook Station at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Ohio.

The crew assigned to fly on the company's Crew Dragon will liftoff aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from historic pad 39A.

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. Boeing's spacecraft - the Starliner - will be carried into space by an Atlas 5 rocket built by United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

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. If history is any guide, the crews taking the spotlight on Friday will have even more time to train. The idea is that other customers will emerge and the company will have a profitable business that does not rely exclusively on government contracts. Flights without any people are expected before the end of 2018, followed by two crewed missions sometime in 2019. The spacecraft will dock and undock autonomously to the space station before flying their crew back to Earth. This test demonstrated the system's ability to land the spacecraft safely in the unlikely event of a low altitude abort.

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

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