NASA's Commercial Crew Program Target Test Flight Dates

CRS-13 Dragon is released

CRS-13 Dragon is released

NASA has not been able to launch people into space since the space shuttle was retired in 2011. Since then, the US has been buying seats on Russian missions to get American astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). Un-crewed test flights will start in August, followed by Boeing's first crewed test flight in November when the Starliner blasts off with (possibly!) a NASA astronaut and Boeing employee aboard. All the tests will still take place this year according to the new schedule, but SpaceX's have slipped several months.

After the uncrewed flight tests, both companies will execute a flight test with crew prior to being certified by NASA for crew rotation missions. Right now, crew members headed to the ISS must fly on Russian Soyuz spacecraft launched from Baikanor, Kazakhstan.

To meet NASA's requirements, the commercial providers must demonstrate that their systems are ready to begin regular flights to the space station. As the Wall Street Journal notes, the report also cited two specific, potentially high-risk elements of SpaceX's fuel tanks on its Falcon 9 rockets, which may be the reason for the delay in SpaceX's launch schedule.