USA astronauts heading back to space on American rockets in July

SpaceX Crew Dragon

SpaceX created the Dragon 2, which will fly to the station in two modifications, Crew Dragon 2 and Cargo Dragon 2 based on the original Dragon spacecraft.

The commercial crew program has suffered multiple delays due to technical issues and congressional funding shortfalls, but NASA managers say the new spacecraft are close to being ready for their initial test flights.

SpaceX will launch a Falcon 9 with the astronaut-ready space capsule from NASA's Kennedy Space Center Launchpad 39A.

NASA said in a statement: "These adjustments allow for completion of necessary hardware testing, data verification, remaining NASA and provider reviews, as well as training of flight controllers and mission managers". If the demo goes well, two NASA astronauts will take a test flight in July aboard the SpaceX capsule.

It will also be the first time in history a privately-built spacecraft will dock with the International Space Station.

Assuming the in-flight test goes well and no other major problems crop up, NASA and SpaceX hope to launch another Crew Dragon this summer, this one carrying NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to the station. But launch dates for both flights have just been pushed to the right, NASA announced today (Feb. 6). "We always learn from tests".

Boeing also plans to test-fly their capsule, dubbed the Starliner, possibly as soon as April.

"We are excited about seeing the hardware we have followed through development, integration, and ground testing move into flight".

NASA's commercial crew program has been delayed repeatedly over the years, forcing a lengthy, expensive reliance on Russian rockets. A crewed test flight, with NASA astronauts Mike Fincke and Nicole Mann, and Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson, is scheduled for no earlier than August.

The date to resuming launches of US astronauts from the Space Coast is slipping into late 2019, according to the new launch timeline updated by NASA. "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". The rocket performed a static fire test on the pad January 24 that the company said was successful.

Astronauts haven't been launched from the USA since the shuttering of NASA's longstanding shuttle program in 2011.



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