SpaceX Slips Commercial Crew Flight Test Schedule

Launch_America_Commercial_Crew
Wake the neighbors and phone the kids.

SpaceX has update its commercial crew schedule for the first time in six months. Coupled with Boeing’s update from October, we now have a fully updated timeline for the entire program.  Below is the current schedule according to NASA.

Targeted Flight Test Dates to International Space Station

  • SpaceX Demonstration Mission 1 (No Crew): November 2017
  • Boeing Orbital Flight Test (No Crew: June 2018
  • SpaceX Demonstration Mission 2 (Crew): May 2018
  • Boeing Crew Flight Test (Crew): August 2018

Did SpaceX’s slip its schedule again? You betcha. By about six more months. Will either of these schedules hold? I wouldn’t count on it. Hence the word “targeted.”

Overall, Boeing is running 15 to 16 months behind schedule on the flight tests from what was indicated in the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contact it was awarded in 2014. SpaceX is running 19 to 20 months behind schedule.

Although previous delays have been attributed to under funding by Congress, the delays under the CCtCap contracts have been caused by technical problems and bureaucratic slowness at NASA.

I’ve excerpted the schedules for Boeing and SpaceX below to show the flight tests and the operational and certification reviews that both companies must complete in order to fly astronauts to the space station. I’ve included the latest dates where applicable.

If the same intervals are used for the operational readiness and certification milestones as appeared in the original schedules, then both companies would be conducting certification reviews in November 2018. It’s not clear whether those intervals will hold or whether would want to conduct both reviews in the same month.

Boeing CCtCap Milestones
(December 2016)
No.DescriptionOriginal Contracted Estimated Completion Date
Revised, Actual, or Upcoming Completion Dates
Delay
26Orbital Flight Test Flight Test Readiness Review. A review that demonstrates readiness to conduct an uncrewed Orbital Flight Test and defines a risk baseline for flight test activities.January 2017May 201816 Months
Orbital Flight TestFebruary 2017June 201816 Months
28Crewed Flight Test Flight Test Readiness Review. A review to demonstrate readiness to conduct a crewed flight test and define risk baseline for crewed flight test activities.April 2017 July 201815 Months
Crewed Flight Test
May 2017August 201815 Months
29Operational Readiness Review. A review to demonstrate that the actual Crew Transportation System characteristics and procedures used in operations reflect the deployed state of the System. The review evaluates all project and support hardware, software, personnel, and procedures to ensure flight and associated ground system are in compliance with requirements.July 2017
 ?
34Certification Review (Delivery Milestone). A review in which the contractor provides evidence that the Crew Transportation System has met all NASA requirements and provides documentation of the crew safety and mission assurance risks.August 2017 ?
SpaceX CCtCap Schedule
(December 2016)
No.DescriptionOriginal Contracted Estimated Completion Date
Revised, Actual, or Upcoming Completion Date
Delay
13Flight to ISS Without Crew. To conduct a flight test of the Dragon-Falcon 9 Crew Vehicle without crew; to provide early demonstration and risk reduction of the Dragon-Falcon 9, ground segment, and mission operations elements.March 2016 November 201720 Months
19Flight to ISS with Crew. Conduct a second test flight of the crew system, this time with crew, to provide an early demonstration and risk reduction of the system for operational missions.
October 2016 May 201819 months
20Operational Readiness Review. A review to demonstrate that the Crew Transportation System characteristics and the procedures used in operations reflect the deployed state of the system; evaluation of all project and support hardware, software, personnel, and procedures to ensure flight and associated ground systems are in compliance with program requirements and constraints.January 2017 ?
21Certification Review. A review in which the contractor provides evidence that the Crew Transportation System has met all NASA requirements and provides documentation of the crew safety and mission assurance risks.April 2017 ?

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