SpaceX’s first uncrewed test flight has just been scheduled for 7th January 2019. The aim of these test flights is to prepare for future flights to the International Space Station (ISS), crewed by NASA astronauts. These flights were initially due to begin in 2019, but are likely to be pushed back to the following year.
On Monday 7th January 2019, the first crewless test flight operated by SpaceX will be launched, reports Numerama. The rocket will take to the sky in Florida, one of the Kennedy Space Center’s launch sites, NASA announced on 22nd November.
A new delay in SpaceX’s schedule
According to the American space agency, “The flight test will provide valuable data toward NASA certifying SpaceX’s crew transportation system for carrying astronauts to and from the space station.” The press release also states that a Falcon 9 rocket will be used with the Crew Dragon spacecraft.
SpaceX admits to a slight delay, as the first test flight had been due to take place in December 2018. Air and spacecraft manufacturer Boeing, also a partner of NASA, are also said to be having trouble keeping to schedule.
Commercial flights pushed back to 2020
NASA’s schedule plans for a series of uncrewed test flights, then a second test phase of crewed flights. The ISS changeover missions operated by SpaceX are set to transport not only supplies but also astronauts, which requires a particularly high level of stringency. Initially scheduled for next year, these missions look likely to be put back to 2020.
Once SpaceX and Boeing are certified for transporting human passengers, NASA will have valuable alternatives to the Soyouz rocket for travelling to and from the ISS. In addition to the geopolitical stakes involved, having various different means of accessing the station will provide important additional security. Despite its reliability, the rocket has already been damaged several times.
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