A closer look at SpaceX's and Boeing's Commercial Crew Spacecraft

NASA-Boeing-Astronauts

NASA-Boeing-Astronauts

NASA's Commercial Crew Program is working with the American aerospace industry as companies develop and operate a new generation of spacecraft and launch systems created to carry crews safely to and from low-Earth orbit.

Boeing test pilot Chris Ferguson, who commanded NASA's last space shuttle mission in 2011, appears to be a sure thing for the first Starliner crew, based on advance reports. The first test was set for 2017, but it was delayed to this end of summer (Boeing delaying it to the end of the year).

"The mission profile will be determined by NASA", he said of the crewed test flight. With all this happening you might be thinking that astronaut wardrobe is the least of NASA's concerns, but you couldn't be more wrong.

NASA estimates have predicted even greater delays than what the agency formally announced August 2.

SpaceX designed its Crew Dragon spacecraft to launch atop the company's Falcon 9 rocket from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Why is this a big deal?

SpaceX and Boeing have been working on their space taxi programs for almost four years, with the aim of transporting astronauts to and from the space station for NASA.

An artist's impression of Boeing's CST-100 "Starliner" spacecraft in low-Earth orbit, on the way to the International Space Station. After that, the companies will become eligible for many years' and billions of dollars' worth of future NASA missions.

NASA said SpaceX was now aiming to conduct an uncrewed demonstration flight of its upgraded Dragon capsule in November, known as SpaceX Demo-1.

However, both companies still have to prove that their vehicles can fly to the ISS and return safely to Earth.

The setback means the first crewed test flight will be pushed back to the middle of 2019, he said.

Although the first crewed flight of the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft was supposed to take place either at the end of 2018 or early next year, Boeing won't be ready to fly the first passengers on its state-of-the-art "space taxi" until mid-2019.

Four of the eight astronauts will nearly certainly be Bob Behnken, Eric Boe, Doug Hurley, and Sunita "Suni" Williams.

A report issued last month by a United States government auditor said Boeing and SpaceX are unlikely to be able to send astronauts to the ISS next year, resulting in a possible gap in the U.S. presence on the spacecraft. Surprisingly, only 3.0 percent of adults in the survey said NASA's top focus should be sending astronauts to the moon, while a mere 8.0 percent said a human trip to Mars or other planets should be a top priority. Initially Congress did not provide as much money as NASA requested because of skepticism that the program would succeed.

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