Commercial Crew Schedule Slip Slides to the Right

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — The next generation of American spacecraft and rockets that will launch astronauts to the International Space Station are nearing the final stages of development and evaluation. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program will return human spaceflight launches to U.S. soil, providing reliable and cost-effective access to low-Earth orbit on systems that meet our safety and mission requirements.

To meet NASA’s requirements, the commercial providers must demonstrate that their systems are ready to begin regular flights to the space station. Two of those demonstrations are uncrewed flight tests, known as Orbital Flight Test for Boeing, and Demonstration Mission 1 for SpaceX. After the uncrewed flight tests, both companies will execute a flight test with crew prior to being certified by NASA for crew rotation missions.

The following schedule reflects the most recent publicly releasable dates for both providers. [Emphasis mine]

Targeted Test Flight Dates:

Boeing Orbital Flight Test: August 2018
Boeing Crew Flight Test: November 2018

SpaceX Demonstration Mission 1: April 2018
SpaceX Demonstration Mission 2 (crewed): August 2018

Editor’s Note: Note the careful wording of this latest press release: “most recent publicly releasable dates.” So, how far are the latest slips? Here is where they were in July.

Previous Targeted Test Flight & Milestone Dates (July 20, 2017):

Boeing Orbital Flight Test: June 2018
Boeing Crew Flight Test: August 2018
Boeing Operational Readiness Review: September 2018
Certification Review: October 2018

SpaceX Demonstration Mission 1: February 2018
SpaceX Demonstration Mission 2 (crewed): June 2018
SpaceX Operational Readiness Review: August 2018
Certification Review: September 2018

SpaceX’s flights have slipped by two months. The Boeing automated flight has slipped by two months and the crew flight by three months. Boeing officials said last week that the second flight could slip in 2019.

The operational readiness reviews and certification reviews are necessary before the companies can begin flying astronauts to the space station on a commercial basis.

  • windbourne

    hmmm.
    This really sux.

    I am sorry that he decided to build everything up front, esp things like ECLSS. Seems like he should have taken the same approach that he took with F1/F9, and Tesla. Basically, make use of contracted parts and once everything is working, then slowly replace the contracted parts.

  • OldCodger

    What a surprise.

  • Paul451

    then slowly replace the contracted parts.

    Not possible with the certification regime that NASA wanted. Same reason they dropped the idea of flying their own in-house astronauts for the first manned test. Same reason they dropped SuperDraco landings.

  • windbourne

    I have to say that this does sux.
    Hopefully, once FH flies, SX will devote a lot more resources to Dragon V2 and get it back on track.

  • duheagle

    Given that all the Falcons and Dragons are now due to be sunsetted fairly soon, that seems to be right out.

  • duheagle

    SpaceX used a minimum of contracted parts from the get-go. More parts production has moved in-house over the years as problems with supplied parts have arisen and/or SpaceX has developed the in-house expertise required to design and make the harder stuff, notably the rocket engine turbo-machinery. I don’t think Merlins any longer incorporate any contracted parts except maybe fasteners. The same, so far as I know, applies to Raptor.

  • duheagle

    I have no idea what you mean anent NASA’s allegedly mandated certification regime. It’s hard to see how in-house production would be harder to certify than contracted parts.

    SpaceX deferred the idea of an in-house astronaut corps until it actually makes sense to have one. NASA only intends to fly four people at a time on Dragon 2 and it seems one of them will always be a test pilot. Having a SpaceX astronaut on these missions would be pointless.

    When there are commercial LEO platforms, continuously or intermittently manned, in the offing, then SpaceX will likely gin up its own astronaut corps to ferry all the non-pilot specialists to and from corporate LEO destinations. But that might not happen until BFR is operational. We’ll probably see an astronaut or two in SpaceX livery as BFR comes together. Dragon 2 is not supposed to need a pilot even for that upcoming circumlunar tourist jaunt so it may never fly with a SpaceX astronaut on-board.

    SpaceX “dropped” the Super Draco powered landings for Dragon 2 because some within NASA decided to pitch a hissy fit after that aforementioned circumlunar tourist mission was announced. Getting suddenly shirty about a part of Dragon 2’s planned normative flight profile that had been no secret since the vehicle was debuted in 2014 was the only handy club they had with which to beat SpaceX so they grabbed it and used it.

    There are more than a few people at NASA who still regard deep space as a sacred NASA monopoly. The largest number of them work at MSFC and they were, it seems, able to overpower SpaceX’s friends elsewhere in NASA, especially the ISS and Commercial Crew folks, on that Dragon 2 powered landing issue.

    At Adelaide, Elon showed one slide depicting a BFR passenger carrier upper stage docked to ISS. The not so subtle subtext there was a message to NASA that, “we’ll keep hauling your freight and people as per contract, but we’re going to do it this way as soon as we can, not with the Dragon 2 you kneecapped.” It was a way of serving notice on NASA that no more monkey dominance games will be tolerated in Hawthorne.

  • Douglas Messier

    Mmmm…..source for claim that NASA force SpaceX to drop propulsive landing due to the planned circumlunar mission and not the cost and complexity of certifying that system as Elon said.

  • Douglas Messier

    My guess is Elon will try to get the USAF to pay for 2/3s of the BFR development through the RFP that was issued last week. The 2022 launch date to Mars certainly is in line with the timeline set out in the request.