SpaceX is first to conduct its test flight of spacecraft in a bid to meet NASA's requirement to transport U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station.
SpaceX is scheduled to conduct first crewed test flight in April 2019 while Boeing is scheduled for mid-2019, according to a new schedule that NASA released Thursday. SpaceX Crew Dragon will blast off space via the Falcon 9 rocket while Boeing's Starliner will fly atop United Launch Alliance's Atlas 5 rocket. These new schedules, however, are both behind their original target dates.
Meanwhile, NASA will announce on Aug. 3 the name of the astronauts assigned to crew the first flight tests and missions for both SpaceX and Boeing. The announcement will be aired at 11 a.m. EDT on NASA Television.
NASA's Commercial Crew Program Target Test Flight Dates
To qualify for the project, both SpaceX and Boeing must prove that their systems are ready to begin regular flights to the ISS. One requirement is for respective companies to pass both uncrewed and crewed flight tests. If both SpaceX and Boeing satisfactorily showed that they can be of service to the space agency, NASA will certify them for crew rotation missions.
For the purpose of these flight demonstrations, SpaceX uncrewed and crewed test flights are referred to as SpaceX Demo-1 and Demo-2 respectively. Boeing's meanwhile are Orbital Flight Test and Crew Flight Test.
SpaceX Demo-1 is scheduled for November 2018 while Demo-2 is scheduled in April 2019. Boeing's Orbital flight test is scheduled either in late 2018 or early 2019 while its Crew Flight Test is scheduled in mid-2019.
NASA Launching Spacecraft From US Soil Once More
NASA granted both companies a combined $6.8 billion in September 2014 in a bid to push the United States' ability to fly to the ISS from the Florida Space Coast. The space agency has not flown spacecraft from the U.S. soil since its last space shuttle mission in 2011. Astronauts have since been flown to the ISS aboard Russian rockets launched in Kazakhstan.
NASA's deal with both SpaceX and Boeing is two-pronged as the agency would also like to hire both companies for future leisure and business travel services to space. In fact, NASA's contract with Boeing and SpaceX include allowing both companies to sell tickets to tourists who would like to fly on the NASA missions.
NASA To Announce Astronauts Assigned to First Boeing, SpaceX Flights
There were reports that Chris Ferguson, a former U.S. Navy fighter pilot and a Boeing employee at present, will fly the Starliner for its crewed flight test. Ferguson piloted the Atlantis mission to the ISS in September 2006. He also commanded two more spaceflights in 2008. He retired from NASA months after flying the Atlantis shuttle on its last flight in 2011.
There were also reports saying four astronauts that were selected back in 2015 will be the first crews during the test flights. These astronauts were Bob Behnken, Eric Boe, Doug Hurley, and Sunita Williams.