Crewmembers For Boeing, SpaceX First Test Flights To Be Named Friday

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SpaceX is targeting November 2018 for Crew Dragon's first uncrewed demonstration mission (Demo-1), three months later than the previous schedule released by NASA early this year. Boeing's Starliner spacecraft will blast off atop United Launch Alliance's Atlas 5 rocket, while SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft will travel on the company's workhorse Falcon 9 rocket. SpaceX has hinted that its first crewed flight could take place by early next year, but Mulholland declined to speculate.

The test flights and missions aboard Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft, slated for as early as April 2019, will "begin a new era in America spaceflight", the USA space agency said.

The news, announced on NASA's Commercial Crew program blog, doesn't come as a surprise.

SpaceX now has six Crew Dragon capsules at various stages of production and testing, NASA officials have said.

Boeing develops the Starliner after NASA chose them and SpaceX to each build a spacecraft that would send humans to the ISS.

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Leading up to the a ceremony at the Johnson Space Center here, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said it was a historic moment for the space agency, saying: "We are going to launch American astronauts from American soil".

In March, teams from Boeing, NASA and ULA gathered in control rooms across the country for an integrated crew exercise of Boeing's Orbital Flight Test. Boeing also completed two joint rendezvous docking system simulations with the space station.

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"Safely and reliably flying commercial crew missions for NASA remains the highest priority for SpaceX", said Benji Reed, Director of Crew Mission Management at SpaceX. "The systems will be operated in the actual environment to test it and ensure it's ready for crew".

Last week, Boeing confirmed that it had a problem with its launch abort system, which is created to ferry crews to safety in the event of an emergency.

■ PACE (Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem), a mission to monitor the planet's ocean health, which has not yet launched.

Last month, the Government Accountability Office warned that the companies were slipping on their schedules toward NASA certification, with Boeing reaching that milestone in December 2019 and SpaceX a month later.

SpaceX's Dragon crew ship, on display at the company's Hawthorne, Calif., factory in 2014.

Part of Boeing's delay arose from a propellant leak in June during a launch-abort engine test in New Mexico. "We want to do some climate science, but we aren't going to do some of the insane stuff that the previous administration did", he said.

"After the uncrewed flight tests, both companies will execute a flight test with crew prior to being certified by NASA for crew rotation missions", NASA communications specialist Stephanie Martin wrote in a blog post.

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