After a series of delays, it looks like the United States will resume manned space flights again. This time, though, NASA is taking a back seat. SpaceX and Boeing received contracts under NASA’s Commercial Crew Development program and plan to have astronauts back in the skies by 2018.
The two spacecraft created by SpaceX and Boeing will have the capability to bring astronauts and supplies to the International Space Station. There has been a hiatus of several years since the last space shuttle flight, but SpaceX’s Dragon 2 and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner are hoping to change that.
The contract between NASA and the two companies to create the spacecraft was delayed after it was initially scheduled for flight in 2017.
Now, a year after the intended schedule, SpaceX has released a statement which explains that they are still on track for an unmanned flight in February next year and a manned flight in June of the same year.
SpaceX’s CEO, Elon Musk, commented on the problems they ran into shortly after they started to develop “Crew Dragon,” an acronym they use when referring to Dragon 2. He explained the unmanned version of the aircraft, which is being used to take supplies to ISS, was “way more difficult” than originally predicted.
“As soon as people enter the picture, it’s really a giant step up in making sure things go right,” he added.
Chris Ferguson, Boeing’s director of their Starliner program, spoke candidly about the issues his team ran into during their four-year adventure. He claimed that the timeline was “very aggressive for a test program” and underestimated the difficulty of bringing supplies and astronauts to ISS for the first time since 2011.
Ferguson says that he and his team are still lined up for a December 2018 launch. Boeing, in a recent earnings call, divulged that they’re still planning to use commercial crews, sooner rather than later.
Furgeson said in a recent interview that once NASA chooses a crew for the December 2018 mission, Boeing is confident that they will meet the schedule. “Once when they feel comfortable that they’re about 12 months out from a crewed flight launch, I think you can see an assignment come out.”