SpaceX poised to beat Boeing with first astronaut flights

SpaceX poised to beat Boeing with first astronaut flights

SpaceX poised to beat Boeing with first astronaut flights

NASA will announce on Friday, Aug. 3, the astronauts assigned to crew the first flight tests and missions of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon, and begin a new era in American spaceflight. As a partner approaches its target readiness date, NASA will work with the company and the Eastern Range to identify launch dates within the busy International Space Station schedule to ensure science investigations, as well as logistics activities and critical operations continue while these new spacecraft are tested.

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.

Now, however, the SpaceX uncrewed flight is scheduled for November 2018 and its crewed successor for April 2019 - edging in front of Boeing's planned launches.

"While we know there's quite a bit of interest and focus on who will fly first, NASA is more interested in both of them flying successfully", Stephanie Schierholz, a spokeswoman for the USA space agency, said Thursday.

The ground controllers will use the space station's Canadarm2 robotic arm to detach Dragon from the Earth-facing side of the station's Harmony module and manoeuvre the vehicle into its release position.

More than 50 people are in NASA's astronaut corps, though 12 in the agency's 2017 astronaut class are still training.

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If no major problems develop, SpaceX could be ready to launch another Dragon, this one with a crew on board, in the April 2019 timeframe.

In February, SpaceX blasted Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster into space from a Falcon Heavy rocket.

NASA has outsourced the design of new spacesuits to various contractors, and those projects resulted in prototypes that would seem to be a huge step forward. Separately, SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft for Demo-1 arrived to the Cape in July for final processing.

In May, SpaceX completed its 16th overall parachute system test for Crew Dragon at Naval Air Facility El Centro in Southern California. Dubbed DM-2 (demonstration mission 2, set to follow this month's first demo spaceflight that will be uncrewed), the spacecraft's first passenger test flight is slated for December, per a previous report by the Inquisitr. Boeing will conduct a manned Starliner flight in mid-2019. They will launch atop the company's Falcon 9 rockets from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, the same pad, now extensively modifiled, that was once used by shuttles and Saturn 5 moon rockets.

Mulholland said the Atlas V launch vehicle for the mission is launch-ready and should ship to Florida before the end of this year.

"I see parallels between commercial crew and the early aviation industry, when government nurtured that commercial innovation", said Cowart.

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