It looks as though SpaceX’s first Crew Dragon could be delayed an additional four months to March 2018, according to an update to Spaceflightnow.com’s normally reliable launch schedule.
The Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) review of major NASA projects released last month had the first flight taking place in November based on data collected in January. That target was reflected in Spaceflightnow.com’s schedule until May 19.
The first flight test would go to the International Space Station (ISS) without a crew. The second flight test to the station would follow six months later in May 2018 with test pilots aboard.
A certification review would be conducted in third quarter 2018 (i.e., July to September). Once the Crew Dragon is certified, SpaceX will be able to fly astronauts to the space station on a commercial basis under a contract with NASA.
A four-month delay would push certification into at least late 2018, which could delay the first commercial Crew Dragon flights into 2019.
Both Space CEO Elon Musk and President Gwynne Shotwell have expressed confidence over the last several months that the company will be able to fly astronauts to the station on a commercial basis in 2018.
In response to an earlier GAO report released in February, Musk tweeted:
@elonmusk Can u address specifics in GAO report? Past projections proved optimistic. Why is GAO wrong? What’s different now?
— Parabolicarc.com (@spacecom) February 18, 2017
@spacecom They are often right, but, in this case, we have already retired so much R&D risk on Dragon 2, that I feel very confident of 2018.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 18, 2017
NASA has hedged its bets that SpaceX and Boeing — the other Commercial Crew Program partner — will be able to fly astronauts to the space station in 2018. The space agency has options for three Soyuz seats that Boeing received as part of the settlement of a lawsuit against RSC Energia, which manufactures the spacecraft.