NASA Commercial Crew Flights Slip Slide Toward 2019

Astronauts Bob Behnken and Eric Boe evaluate Crew Dragon controls. (Credit: NASA)

Crucial flight tests for NASA’s two commercial crew vehicles are slipping ever closer to 2019. The space agency released the following updated schedules for Boeing’s CST-100 and SpaceX’s Dragon 2 vehicles today:

Targeted Test Flight Dates

Boeing Orbital Flight Test (uncrewed): August 2018
Boeing Crew Flight Test (crewed): November 2018
SpaceX Demonstration Mission 1 (uncrewed): August 2018
SpaceX Demonstration Mission 2 (crewed): December 2018

Boeing’s schedule has not changed from the previous update. SpaceX’s demonstration flights have slipped from April and August to August and December, respectively. No reasons have been given for the slips.

A reliable source tells Parabolic Arc that SpaceX experienced a delay several months ago due to issues with Dragon 2’s environmental control and life support system (ECLSS). The problem was estimated to delay the first demonstration flight about six months. At about that same time, the schedule for that first uncrewed flight slipped from February to April.

A SpaceX spokeswoman would not comment for the record on this report.

  • Robert G. Oler

    it will happen

  • The race to slip the least is ON! 🙂

  • Douglas Messier

    My guess is both crewed flights slip into 2019. Those dates are pretty close to the end of the year. And both providers are dealing with some knotty issues.

  • therealdmt

    In any given calendar year, for things scheduled from this far out,

    December = the next year
    November = most likely the next year

  • therealdmt

    Wow, this sucks.

    Sure, safety first, but there’s an upcoming end date for this whole endeavor, the end of the ISS. If the Trump admin. is serious about a return to the Moon, the ISS should be ended in 2024. That isn’t my personal desire, but there will be no robust return to the Moon’s surface any time soon if NASA has to have its manned space flight budget divided between the ISS and developing a lunar lander, rover, lunar shelter/base and associated equipment, at least not without a complete overhaul of how NASA funds and develops such projects (and, given the political nature of the budget, an all-encompassing overhaul won’t happen). Additionally, NASA’s Deep Space Gateway could be added to all of that.

    Alternately, the Administration could accept NASA’s proposal of a Deep Space Gateway as fulfilling the return to the Moon mandate and simultaneously continue the ISS to 2028 or beyond. In that case, a delay into 2019 still gives time for a non-government (or at least a non-US government) market to develop, which was a large part of the purpose of the commercial crew program — to lead to the situation of having existing commercial providers of manned access to LEO that NASA could, to an extent, just buy a ticket with when it needs to get its astronauts off of the Earth.

    If this gets delayed to 2020 (if it just effectively got pushed out to 2019, you’d better believe 2020 isn’t impossible) and the station is already winding down in 2023, the whole program’s gonna have been a big fat dud

  • therealdmt

    We’ll have to wait and see what the 2019 budget proposal is — this could be a biggie in terms of a major redirection. Actually, there are a lot of possibilities at this moment

  • SamuelRoman13

    I wonder if a Dragon2 cargo will fly first. Musk said it will not have the Super Draco. He said it will fly to test Crew Dragon. It would be a good idea. No mention though. No one asked ISS people, Might be on a ISS schedule. Wow 6 mo. delay caused by ECLSS. Must have been a big problem. Bad.

  • Michael Halpern

    Most likely, i expect another delay on Boeing, SpaceX i expect to not slip much more at least for uncrewed

  • passinglurker

    Commercial crew, sls em-1, Chinese space station…

    Who else is running in the great slip race of 2019? Is Russia still trying to launch that lab module?

  • Michael Halpern

    Boeing has said they wanted to select demo crew 12 months in advance of flight, they have yet to do that as they are still pretty uncertain about the schedule, for SpaceX this was a 4 month delay, which is remarkably short so I don’t expect more major delays before their uncrewed, any after that depend on demo 1 and in flight abort test

  • The suborbitals are right around the corner! SpaceShipOne flew in 2004!

  • Hug Doug

    Dragon 2 will have the Super Draco. It just won’t use them to land.

  • Obediah Headstrong

    Let’s be bold: It will likely never happen. Just because… Yes I know, annoying SOB. But at least it has been said.

  • Arthur Hamilton

    There is nothing keeping NASA from offering SX a sole source cost plus contract to develope capsule propulsive landing techniques to be used by any U.S. company using space capsules.

  • Hug Doug

    Sure there is, it’s called Congress. Why would they want NASA to do that?

  • windbourne

    If NASA would quit adding more russian seats, I suspect that the slip to the right would stop.
    Boeing and SX are allowing this to go because NASA enables it.

  • windbourne

    i agree.
    Such a thing would obsolete orion and CONgress fights it.

  • windbourne

    ISS shutting down in 2024 would be IDEAL IFF we have several private space stations. From that point, it would be easy for them to add more.