A commercial crew contract modification moves NASA one step closer to using a test flight as an operational mission to maintain a presence on the ISS.
Members of the House space subcommittee raised concerns about elements of NASA's fiscal year 2019 budget proposal during a March 7 hearing, from the cancellation of a space telescope to restructuring of the agency's technology programs.
Members of a NASA safety panel said they see good progress on the development of both exploration systems and commercial crew vehicles, but warn future progress could be hindered by a "bottleneck" of reviews they face.
NASA is beginning to study a contingency option for maintaining access to the International Space Station should commercial crew vehicle development experience delays, one that would turn test flights of those vehicles into operational missions.
As the two companies developing commercial crew systems reiterated that they were on schedule to carry out test flights later this year, a government analysis of schedules concluded those vehicles may not be certified to carry NASA astronauts until late 2019 or early 2020.
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.