SpaceX Delays ISS Commercial Crew Flight to 2018 After Postponing December 'Return to Flight'
It looks like SpaceX is not wrapping 2016 in a good way. First, its "Return to Flight" originally set to launch in mid-December was moved to January 2017. Now, the commercial crew flight to the International Space Station (ISS) supposed to launch next year was moved to 2018.
This means astronauts won't be flying aboard SpaceX to the ISS in 2017 despite a SpaceX announcement earlier this year that the company is still on track for the 2017 launch. Boeing's Starliner already moved its manned flight to 2018 leaving SpaceX ahead of the competition. However, recent developments revealed that SpaceX won't be carrying astronauts to the ISS in 2017 as well.
Boeing and SpaceX won contracts from NASA to build the next generation crew capsule since the agency's Space Shuttle retired in 2011. Both companies are now nearing completion of their own next generation spacecraft but it looks like no one knows for sure who is going to fly to the ISS first. NASA heavily relies on Russian rockets to send humans to space since 2011.
"NASA's Commercial Crew Program will return human spaceflight launches to U.S. soil, providing reliable and cost-effective access to low-Earth orbit on systems that meet our safety and mission requirements," a NASA official said in a blog post.
Based on NASA's report, SpaceX will perform a demonstration mission on November 2017 and another demonstration mission in May 2018. The Dragon crew test launch that will bring a crew on board was moved to the said May 2018 schedule, according to a report. SpaceX will have to pass the manned test on May 2018 in order to be given the green light to send astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).
Both Boeing and SpaceX are competing to become the American company to bring astronauts to the ISS, replacing Roscosmos. NASA officials have deliberately expressed their preference for a U.S.-based company to transport astronauts to space. "I don't ever want to have to write another check to Roscosmos," NASA's administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement.
The question now is, between the two companies, who will finish their new breed of space capsules in order to bring astronauts to the ISS aboard an American-made space shuttle.