SpaceX tar­gets March launch

Af­ter de­lays, date set for demo of astro­naut cap­sule

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - Money - By Cha­beli Her­rera Or­lando Sen­tinel Want more space news? Fol­low Go For Launch on Face­book. Con­tact the re­porter at cher­[email protected]­lan­dosen­tinel.com or 407-420-5660; Twit­ter @Cha­beliH

The test flights for NASA’s highly an­tic­i­pated Com­mer­cial Crew Pro­gram to re­turn as­tro­nauts to space from U.S. soil are hap­pen­ing a lit­ter later than ini­tially ex­pected.

In an up­dated sched­ule re­leased Wed­nes­day, NASA said it is now look­ing at March 2 for the launch of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon test flight. The launch will fea­ture a Fal­con 9 rocket car­ry­ing a Crew Dragon astro­naut cap­sule with­out any crew — for now. The Elon Musk-led rocket launch com­pany plans to launch with crew aboard in July.

The com­pany com­pleted a static fire test of its Fal­con 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon cap­sule at­tached in late Jan­uary at Kennedy Space Cen­ter’s launch com­plex 39A.

The demo flight for NASA’s astro­naut pro­gram was orig­i­nally sched­uled for early Jan­uary, but dur­ing the 35-day govern­ment shut­down, that date slipped to late Fe­bru­ary.

NASA’s other Com­mer­cial Crew part­ner, Boe­ing, is also plan­ning a later date for a test flight of its CST-100 Star­liner astro­naut cap­sule. This one, also with­out crew, will take place in April at the ear­li­est.

Ac­cord­ing to NASA, United Launch Al­liance is fi­nal­iz­ing pro­cess­ing for the At­las V rocket that will pro­vide the thrust for the Star­liner launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Sta­tion’s launch com­plex 41. The Star­liner cap­sule, mean­while, is also un­der­go­ing test­ing.

Boe­ing’s crewed launch is sched­uled for Au­gust.

“There still are many crit­i­cal steps to com­plete be­fore launch and while we ea­gerly are an­tic­i­pat­ing these launches, we will step through our test flight prepa­ra­tions and readi­ness re­views,” said Kathy Lued­ers, the Com­mer­cial Crew Pro­gram man­ager, in a news re­lease. “We are ex­cited about see­ing the hard­ware we have fol­lowed through de­vel­op­ment, in­te­gra­tion, and ground test­ing move into flight.”

Both com­pa­nies must prove they can per­form the mis­sions safely be­fore be­ing cer­ti­fied for NASA crew ro­ta­tion mis­sions to the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion.

If sched­ules hold, the crewed launches this sum­mer will be the first to take off from U.S. soil car­ry­ing hu­mans to low-Earth or­bit since the end of the Space Shut­tle pro­gram in 2011.

GETTY-AFP

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