SpaceX is one step closer to launching astronauts into space

Mindy Sparks
July 15, 2018

If they fail in this, as a result, USA could lose its ability to transport astronauts to the International Space Station, after the contract between NASA and Russia Soyuz program expires in November of 2019.

Before any launches to the ISS take off, the GAO said NASA has to verify both contractors' spacecraft are absolutely safe for manned missions. Before these capsules became ready, the space agency should do a full evaluation of how it determines the levels of risk tolerance for its crew members and after NASA complete the anticipated certification reviews, it "should document lessons learned [relating to the potential] loss of crew as a safety threshold for future crewed spaceflight missions, given the complexity of the metric".

The report warns that "without a viable contingency option for ensuring uninterrupted access to the ISS in the event of further commercial crew delays, we concluded that NASA is at risk of not being able to maximize the return of its multibillion-dollar investment in the space station". The specialized chamber allowed engineers to study the capsule in conditions simulating the extreme temperatures and vacuum of space.

Now that the Crew Dragon is finally at Cape Canaveral, the next step for SpaceX is to bring in the Falcon 9 "Block 5" booster that will carry the space pod to the ISS on its first demonstration mission, DM-1.

Whether SpaceX and NASA can stick to this schedule remains to be seen.

Since 2011 when NASA cut off its rocket program, the USA space agency relied on Russian space program to transport United States astronauts to the International Space Station.

However, neither Boeing nor SpaceX has been able to certify their programs, and that means that they might not be able to keep with the schedule. "We're evaluating exactly when opportunities might be and when they'll be ready, but we're not ready to set a date at this point in time".

NASA - Photo ID: KSC-2011-8114.

Unfortunately, neither company has what is needed to meet the required demands. "We have not agreed to those dates just yet". However, on Friday, NASA said an internal work-to launch readiness date of August 31, 2018, had been set.

At the moment, Crew Dragon's first manned mission is scheduled for December, but Tech Spot argues that DM-2 stands a good chance of being pushed back until next year, to the first or even the second quarter of 2019. Boeing must go through the same rigorous tests SpaceX won't be the only company in line to ferry astronauts into space. As for SpaceX's Dragon capsule, it was meant to get certification in February 2019, and they will have to wait until at least January 2020 to get it. Hopefully, both companies will pass all the tests with flying colors, giving US astronauts steady access to the space station.

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