Members of an independent NASA safety panel said they were worried that the Oct. 11 Soyuz launch failure could make safety concerns with the agency’s commercial crew program even worse.
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A day after a SpaceX executive expressed doubts that his company would be able to carry out its first commercial crew test flight before the end of the year, NASA issued an updated schedule that delayed that mission to 2019.
A SpaceX executive said Oct. 3 that the company’s first commercial crew test flight could be delayed until early 2019 because of paperwork issues.
Boeing and SpaceX, who have been struggling to meet safety thresholds established by NASA for commercial crew vehicles, now believe their vehicles can meet those requirements as they prepare for test flights scheduled in the next several months.
NASA is continuing to study using commercial crew test flights as space station crew rotation missions, but won’t make a final decision regarding that until next summer.
NASA announced Aug. 17 that it will allow SpaceX to use a fueling approach for its commercial crew missions that attracted prior scrutiny, pending a final series of tests.
NASA announced Aug. 3 the assignment of eight agency astronauts, a mix of veterans and rookies, as well as one company astronaut to fly on the first set of commercial crew missions by Boeing and SpaceX.
NASA released an updated schedule of commercial crew test flights Aug. 2 that confirms Boeing’s revised plans as well as delays for SpaceX’s two demonstration missions.
Boeing now plans to carry out an uncrewed test flight of its CST-100 Starliner commercial crew vehicle late this year or early next year as it addresses a problem found during a recent test of the spacecraft’s abort engines.
As NASA prepares to announce the astronauts who will fly the first commercial crew missions, an independent safety board is cautioning that it is still too soon to set dates for those flights.
Boeing confirmed July 21 that there was an “anomaly” during a recent test of the launch abort engines for its CST-100 Starliner commercial crew vehicle that could delay a key milestone needed for the vehicle to be able carry astronauts.
Amid growing concerns about commercial crew delays, a GAO report recommended NASA share more schedule information with Congress and develop contingency plans to maintain access to the International Space Station.
The first SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft has completed a series of tests at a NASA center that may put the spacecraft one step closer to an uncrewed test flight later this year.
With official dates for commercial crew test flights looming, NASA officials have indicated a revised schedule, taking into account the status of vehicle development as well as International Space Station activities, will soon be released.