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Dragon Ready for Return Ahead of Commercial Crew Announcement

03 August 2018

Although both Boeing and SpaceX still have a few milestones to reach before the launch of their respective astronaut-ferrying spacecraft, NASA is already looking ahead at resuming USA -based crewed spaceflights. NASA also said SpaceX will launch an uncrewed flight test in November, with Boeing not expected to do that until late in 2018 or in the early part of next year. "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".

NASA is all prepared to declare the names of the astronauts allocated to the new commercial crew capsules from SpaceX and Boeing, early next month.

"NASA's Commercial Crew Program will return human spaceflight launches to USA soil, providing safe, reliable and cost-effective access to low-Earth orbit on systems that meet our safety and mission requirements", said the official blog.

Boeing test pilot Chris Ferguson, who commanded NASA's last space shuttle mission in 2011, appears to be a sure thing for the first Starliner crew, based on advance reports.

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In both cases, again assuming no major problems crop up, operational flights to ferry astronauts to and from the space station would begin after the test flights are complete, ending NASA's sole reliance on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to carry U.S., European, Canadian and Japanese crew members to the lab.

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News 6 is at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston for the announcement Friday morning.

These unexpected delays could mean that Boeing might not get certification for its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft until February 2020, states The Verge, citing a series of reports from the Government Accountability Office.

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.

In March, SpaceX performed two parachute tests, the company's 14th and 15th overall parachute test supporting Crew Dragon development in the Mojave Desert in Southern California. Flights without any people are expected before the end of 2018, followed by two crewed missions sometime in 2019.

Boeing had planned to start with the pad abort test, which would make use of a "pusher" rocket system created to throw the capsule clear of its launch vehicle in the event of an emergency. The spacecraft will dock and undock autonomously to the space station before flying their crew back to Earth.

[I] t is possible that neither contractor would be ready [to fly a USA crew to the ISS] until August 2020, leaving a potential gap in access [to the ISS] of at least 9 months. "The result is that we'll have a better and safer spacecraft", he said.

Dragon Ready for Return Ahead of Commercial Crew Announcement