Science

Technical glitch: US: SpaceX no-load test is delayed

Technical glitch: US: SpaceX no-load test is delayed”

"The uncrewed flight tests are a great dry run for not only our hardware, but for our team to get ready for our crewed flight tests", said Kathy Lueders, NASA's Commercial Crew Program manager.

The Falcon 9 booster will blast off from Kennedy Space Center's Launch Pad 39A, which has a new crew access arm installed on the launch tower for eventual manned missions.

NASA and its Commercial Crew Program providers Boeing and SpaceX have agreed to move the target launch dates for the upcoming inaugural test flights of their next generation American spacecraft and rockets that will launch astronauts to the International Space Station.

In the meantime, Boeing has had to push the first launch of its CST-100 Starliner capsule on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral one month further, targeting April.

NASA said that work toward the commercial crew test launches continued during the month of January and was not affected by the record-setting shutdown of the federal government that lasted from December 22 to Jan. 25.

In a statement, NASA said that the initial uncrewed test flight by SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft, previously scheduled for no earlier February 23, was now scheduled for no earlier than March 2.

More time is still needed to complete testing, training and safety reviews, according to NASA. NASA also wants to have the Crew Dragon approved to take astronauts to the ISS by late 2019. On its first test flight, the Crew Dragon will aim to make a two-week trip to the ISS without hardware hiccups.

NASA's commercial crew program has been delayed repeatedly over the years, forcing a lengthy, expensive reliance on Russian rockets.

Astronauts haven't launched to orbit from American soil since July 2011, when NASA retired its space shuttle fleet. After the uncrewed flight tests, Boeing and SpaceX will complete a flight test with crew prior to being certified by NASA for crew rotation missions. The next step after that will be an in-flight test of the capsule's abort systems. Following the test flights, NASA will review performance data and resolve any necessary issues to certify the systems for operational missions.

In order to meet NASA's requirements, both SpaceX and Boeing must demonstrate an ability to safely and efficiently transport crews into space. The rocket performed a static fire test on the pad January 24 that the company said was successful.



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