An independent safety panel recommended NASA not certify SpaceX’s commercial crew system until the agency better understands the behavior of pressure vessels linked to a Falcon 9 failure in 2016.
SpaceX has delayed its two commercial crew test flights by four months, according to a new NASA schedule released Jan. 11, raising questions about whether it or Boeing will be able to send astronauts to the International Space Station by the end of the year as previously planned.
As the two companies developing commercial crew vehicles prepare for test flights in the next 12 months, a NASA official said the agency expects those companies to be able to meet, or come close to, stringent safety requirements for those spacecraft.
Both NASA and the two companies developing commercial crew vehicles say those efforts remain on schedule for test flights that are in some cases less than a year away.
The two companies developing commercial crew vehicles for NASA may not be able to meet a safety threshold specified in their contracts, an agency safety panel found.
The two companies developing commercial crew vehicles are confident that they will be ready to start carrying astronauts in 2018 despite a recent report that concluded delays into 2019 were likely.
NASA plans to complete by the middle of March a contingency plan for ensuring access to the International Space Station should its two commercial crew partners suffer additional delays.
NASA is proposing to purchase, through Boeing, additional Soyuz seats for International Space Station missions to both take advantage of Russian plans to decrease the size of its crew and as insurance against potential additional commercial crew delays.
A NASA safety board recommended in its annual report that the agency closely study the safety issues associated with SpaceX’s fueling plans for Falcon 9 commercial crew missions.
SpaceX has delayed by several months a pair of test flights of its Crew Dragon spacecraft being developed for NASA’s commercial crew program, in part because of a Falcon 9 pad explosion in September.
In the wake of a launch accident and a critical report, the two companies with NASA commercial crew contracts say they’re committed to maintaining their development schedules, but not at the expense of safety.