Launch Dates to be Updated More Regularly as Commercial Crew Flights Draw Nearer

NASA assigned nine astronauts to crew the first test flight and mission of both Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon. The astronauts are, from left to right: Sunita Williams, Josh Cassada, Eric Boe, Nicole Mann, Christopher Ferguson, Douglas Hurley, Robert Behnken, Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover. (Credits: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — As NASA’s Commercial Crew partners Boeing and SpaceX crew transportation systems are within months of being ready for the first test flights of their spacecraft that will carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station from U.S. soil, the scheduling of launch dates enters a new phase.

This near-term scheduling balances the commercial partners’ readiness with NASA and the International Space Station’s schedule and the availability of the Eastern Range to establish a target launch date. NASA plans to provide up-to-date launch planning dates on the Commercial Crew blog, which will be updated approximately monthly, with near-term launches also appearing on NASA’s launches and landing schedule.

“As we get closer to launching human spacecraft from the U.S., we can be more precise in our schedules,” said Phil McAlister, director of Commercial Spaceflight Development at NASA Headquarters. “This allows our technical teams to work efficiently toward the most up-to-date schedules, while allowing us to provide regular updates publicly on the progress of our commercial crew partners.”

SpaceX and the Commercial Crew Program are working together to have the hardware and associated activities ready for its first test flight – Demo-1 – in December 2018, but the launch will occur in January to accommodate docking opportunities at the orbiting laboratory. Boeing’s targeted readiness for its Orbital Flight Test is March 2019. Both test flights will be uncrewed missions.

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are training to fly on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Demo-2 mission, with a planning date of June 2019. NASA astronauts Eric Boe and Nicole Aunapu Mann and Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson are slated for Boeing’s Crew Flight Test targeted for August 2019.

As with all human spaceflight development, learning from each test and adjusting as necessary to reduce risk to the crew may override targeted launch dates.

“This new process for reporting our schedule is better; nevertheless, launch dates will still have some uncertainty, and we anticipate they may change as we get closer to launch,” McAlister said. “These are new spacecraft, and the engineering teams have a lot of work to do before the systems will be ready to fly.”

Following the test flights, NASA will review the performance data and resolve issues as necessary to certify the systems for operational missions. The readiness date for the first long-duration Expedition crew mission is targeted for August 2019 and a second mission is targeted in December 2019, with the specific spacecraft yet to be determined.

Boeing and SpaceX have made significant strides in the development and operation of a new generation of spacecraft and launch systems in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. This public-private partnership marks the beginning of a new era of human spaceflight to design, develop, and test their systems to ensure safe, reliable and cost-effective commercial transportation for astronauts to low-Earth orbit. The success of these human spaceflight systems will be an unprecedented achievement for the commercial space industry and will enable NASA to focus on deep space exploration with NASA’s Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System, as we return humans to the Moon and on to Mars.