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article imageHuman spaceflight to return to Florida's Space Coast in 2018

By Karen Graham     Jan 7, 2018 in Technology
Cape Canaveral - U.S. Space Agency, NASA announced on Thursday its industry partners, Boeing and SpaceX, are targeting the return of human spaceflight for Florida’s Space Coast in 2018.
Both aerospace companies will begin flight tests to ensure their space systems meet NASA's recertification requirements for the coming year, according to Tech Times.
In a statement, NASA said: "Boeing's Starliner will launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 and SpaceX's Crew Dragon will launch on the company's Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A."
Unmanned Atlas V rocket with Cygnus lifts off on April 18  2017 at Cape Canaveral  Florida
Unmanned Atlas V rocket with Cygnus lifts off on April 18, 2017 at Cape Canaveral, Florida
Handout, NASA TV/AFP/File
Both Boeing and SpaceX have developed advanced space system designs since they got the contracts from NASA. Now, they will be working on the substantial launch vehicle and spacecraft hardware, as well as conducting tests before the actual test flights later this year.
NASA's Commercial Crew Program
The Commercial Crew Program is basically targeting the use of spacecraft and launch systems capable of carrying crews to low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station (ISS). Commercial transportation to and from the ISS will provide expanded utility, additional research time and broader opportunities for discovery on the orbiting laboratory.
This is an an artist s conception of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner.
This is an an artist's conception of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner.
NASA - Photo ID: KSC-2011-8114.
All this is important to understanding and overcoming the challenges of long-duration spaceflight to Mars. The federal government is encouraging commercial space partners to provide human transportation services to and from low-Earth orbit. This will aid NASA in expanding its focus on building spacecraft and rockets for deep space missions.
The most important aspect of the program is the safety of the flight crew. Systems must meet NASA’s rigorous safety standards for human spaceflight, and with fixed-price contracts. Both providers must meet the same NASA requirements. Boeing's contract is valued at $4.2 billion and the SpaceX contract is valued at $2.6 billion.
Boeing is expected to perform an uncrewed flight test in August 2018, during which the unmanned CST-100 Starliner will dock to the International Space Station for about two weeks. It all goes well, the company will then fly the Starliner to the ISS with two crew members aboard in November.
This photo obtained from SpaceX on December 20  2015 shows the Falcon 9 rocket in Cape Canaveral  Fl...
This photo obtained from SpaceX on December 20, 2015 shows the Falcon 9 rocket in Cape Canaveral, Florida
, SPACEX / HO/AFP/File
SpaceX is targeting the second quarter of 2018 for its first uncrewed demonstration mission with Crew Dragon to and from the International Space Station. This unmanned flight will be followed in the third quarter of 2018 with a crewed mission that will see two NASA astronauts flying to and from the ISS in the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft.
The two crewed missions by Boeing and SpaceX "represent a major milestone in the return of human spaceflight from the United States," NASA said.
Once the crewed and uncrewed missions are completed, NASA will review the flight data to verify the systems meet the requirements for certification. Upon NASA certification, the companies are each slated to fly six crew missions to the International Space Station beginning in 2019 and continuing through 2024.
Crew Dragon  America’s next generation crewed spacecraft is almost ready for a test flight. Pad ab...
Crew Dragon, America’s next generation crewed spacecraft is almost ready for a test flight. Pad abort vehicle shipping to FL shortly.
SpaceX
NASA relies on Russia for transportation to ISS
Since the Space Shuttle was retired in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russia to transport astronauts to and from the ISS. The additional pressures on NASA are amplified by NASA’s need to provide a viable crew transportation option to the ISS before its current contract with Russia’s space agency runs out in 2019.
In 2015, the United States modified its contract with Roscosmos to provide crew transportation to the ISS for six astronauts through 2018 with rescue and return through late spring 2019. The contract extension was valued at $491 million or approximately $82 million per seat.
The Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft is seen launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome with Expedition 50 crewmem...
The Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft is seen launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome with Expedition 50 crewmembers NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy of Roscosmos, and ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet from the Baikonur Cosmodrome
NASA/Bill Ingalls, (NASA/Bill Ingalls)/AFP/File
NASA’s contract with Roscosmos permits it to delay the use of the final seat by up to 6 months to late spring 2019, with a return flight approximately 6 months later. And right now, NASA doesn't have a backup plan to ensure an uninterrupted presence on the ISS by U.S. astronauts if the commercial crew project is delayed.
Bottom line? The further development of the program will be important to our continuing presence on the ISS, and it is hoped Boeing and SpaceX can come through with the necessary certifications needed.
More about human spaceflight, NASA, Boeing and SpaceX, International Space Station, Crew Dragon
 
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