SpaceX's Crew Dragon suffers third straight setback

James Marshall
February 7, 2019

"The agency now is targeting March 2 for launch of SpaceX's Crew Dragon on its uncrewed Demo-1 test flight". The first unpiloted flight of Boeing's Starliner capsule is now targeted for the April timeframe.

The space agency says the extra time will be used to complete necessary testing and reviews as well as train flight controllers and mission managers. Though they're essentially practice runs, they're still big launches, as the Commercial Crew Program will eventually be used to take astronauts from the USA to the International Space Station. A final launch date was scheduled for the first half of March. This is the third month in a row that NASA has announced a further delay for the first major test flight of Crew Dragon.

Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA's commercial crew program, said the initial launches without astronauts are "a great dry run for not only our hardware, but for our team to get ready for our crewed flight tests".

In a statement, NASA said that the initial uncrewed test flight by SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft, previously scheduled for no earlier February 23, was now scheduled for no earlier than March 2.

SpaceX's new astronaut taxi won't make its inaugural trip to the International Space Station (ISS) this month after all.

"The US side gave us information about the launch date of the unmanned spacecraft Dragon 2 to the ISS". The unpiloted capsule will execute an autonomous rendezvous with the space station, moving in for docking the day after launch.

Unlike approaches by unpiloted Dragon cargo ships, which halt their approaches just short of the station and wait for the lab's robot arm to lock on and pull them in for berthing, the Crew Dragon will fly a computer-guided rendezvous all the way to docking at a modified port at the front of the space station. The rocket performed a static fire test on the pad January 24 that the company said was successful. In today's announcement, NASA calls them "dress rehearsals" for flights that will have astronauts on board. "It is March 2", the source said. The Starliner will blast off from pad 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, riding into space atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket.

Then will come huge milestones - crewed test flights to the ISS.

SpaceX Crew Dragon and Boeing's Starliner are looking to become the next rideshare providers to space. Boeing plans to run this test in May, and SpaceX will perform its version in June. NASA astronauts Michael Fincke and Nicole Aunapu Mann, as well as Boeing astronaut Christopher Ferguson will participate in the second flight.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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