January 7 has been set as the date for the launch of an uncrewed SpaceX Dragon spacecraft which is the first ever commercial crew test flight. It is all set to begin a series of high-stake missions in 2019. NASA stated in 21st November that Falcon 9’s launch of Crew Dragon spacecraft on Demo-1 mission will take place from Launch Complex 39A of Kennedy Space Center. The spacecraft which is also known as Dragon 2 will fly to the ISS to test vehicle’s systems. It won’t carry astronauts as it’ll be its first orbital flight. If this mission is a success, Demo-2 flight will take place in June with NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken flying the spacecraft to the International Space Station.
An in-flight abort test will be conducted between the Demo-1 and Demo-2 missions where the abort system will be used to jettison the Crew Dragon from a Falcon 9 vehicle following liftoff. The 21st November updated schedule showed no changes to the flight test in spite of initial reports suggesting that safety measures were being reviewed owing to concerns arising out of Elon Musk’s behavior. Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner test flight schedule also remains unchanged. Uncrewed Orbital Flight Test will be launched from Cape Canaveral on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 in March. The Crewed Flight Test with NASA astronauts Nicole Aunapu Mann and Eric Boe and former NASA astronaut and Boeing test pilot Chris Ferguson is scheduled for August. A pad abort test will be performed by Boeing between the 2 flights.
These flights will happen after years of funding issues, delays and technical problems. NASA had expected either SpaceX or Boeing to carry its astronauts by 2017-end, but it won’t be happening before August 2019. Patricia Sanders and a few others are even concerned that these plans seem too ambitious to be actually achieved. Some panel members raised questions about Boeing and SpaceX’s technical developments, from Starliner’s propulsion module’s propulsion system problem to lack of clarity over root cause of COPV failure that had caused a Falcon 9 explosion 2years back. ASAP members like Don McErlean stated that these aren’t just ‘paperwork’ issues and need real solutions. Managers of the two companies assured that no flights would take place until all issues are resolved.
Comments about the conference and ASAP meeting took place a few hours following Soyuz MS-10 launch abort, threatening a gap in ISS access. NASA is making hurried attempts to get one commercial crew spacecraft certified as its access to Soyuz seats expires in early-2020.