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article imageNASA and SpaceX aim for March launch of Crew Dragon capsule

By Karen Graham     Feb 6, 2019 in Technology
NASA and SpaceX are now aiming for a March 2 launch of the first crew capsule from a private company designed to fly astronauts to the International Space Station.
NASA officially made the announcement of the March 2 demonstration flight of the new Crew Dragon spacecraft on Wednesday, which just happens to be on the one-year anniversary of SpaceX’s debut of its Falcon Heavy rocket. The Falcon Heavy carried SpaceX CEO Elon Musk's red Tesla convertible into space with a mannequin, dubbed Starman, at the wheel.
The Crew Dragon demonstration flight was originally planned for January. However, the launch was pushed back to February due to scheduling issues and the need for adding additional hardware checks. The February launch was again postponed after delays due to the federal government's 35-day partial shutdown that ended Jan. 25.
The way things look right now, if the demonstration flight goes well, officials say two NASA astronauts will take a test flight in July aboard the SpaceX capsule, according to the Associated Press.
A look at SpaceX s first Crew Dragon spacecraft attached to its Falcon 9 rocket as both sit inside t...
A look at SpaceX's first Crew Dragon spacecraft attached to its Falcon 9 rocket as both sit inside their hangar at Launch Pad 39A of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida in January 2019.
SpaceX
In the meantime, Boeing has had to push the first launch of its CST-100 Starliner capsule on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral one month further, targeting April. The first Starliner flight with astronauts would be in August at the earliest.
“The uncrewed flight tests are a great dry run for not only our hardware but for our team to get ready for our crewed flight tests,” Kathy Lueders, NASA's Commercial Crew Program manager, said Wednesday, reports Florida Today.
“NASA has been working together with SpaceX and Boeing to make sure we are ready to conduct these test flights and get ready to learn critical information that will further help us to fly our crews safely. We always learn from tests.”
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.
NASA said the revised dates "allow for completion of necessary hardware testing, data verification, remaining NASA and provider reviews, as well as training of flight controllers and mission managers."
The space agency is hoping one or both of the crew capsules will be certified as safe to fly by the end of this year. That's when the remaining seats it purchased on Russian Soyuz spacecraft launched from Kazakhstan will be used up. Each seat on the Soyuz rocket costs NASA $82 million.
More about NASA, Spacex, Crew Dragon, Uncrewed launch, Iss
 
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