SpaceX, under a $2.6 billion contract, is modifying its Dragon cargo ship to fly unpiloted resupply missions and to carry astronauts. NASA has had to rely on Russian Federation for taking astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS) since the space shuttle was terminated in 2011.
Mission controllers, with astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor monitoring, will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to release Dragon at 12:37 p.m. EDT Friday.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will make the announcement at 11 a.m.at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.
NASA will announce on Friday, Aug. 3, the astronauts assigned to crew the first flight tests and missions of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon, and begin a new era in American spaceflight.
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The schedule was that Starliner would test an uncrewed flight this month and then a crewed launch in November.
The setback comes as Boeing is entrenched in a competition with Elon Musk's SpaceX to deliver astronauts to the space station, replacing the Russian rockets now used for that goal. Boeing won't launch its passenger spacecraft Starliner until "late 2018/early 2019".
However, the U.S. Government Accountability Office warned last month that certification delays for the two companies could, for a while, leave NASA with no way to get American astronauts onto the ISS. SpaceX is targeting April 2019 for its crewed demonstration flight, Demo-2.
Dreier said it's unlikely Congress would reverse itself one year later and cut the NASA science programs, especially as the Republican-controlled chamber is seeking to pass a budget with minimal partisan fighting over relatively small expenditures. Boeing also connected the upper and lower domes of its Crew Flight Test spacecraft and attached its docking system in June. Boeing's is the CST-100 Starliner launched on United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rockets.
"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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Today, John Mulholland, Vice President and Program Manager for Boeing's commercial crew program, made CST-100 Starliner's delay official.
Each test flight will provide data on the performance of the rockets, spacecraft, ground systems, and operations to ensure the systems are safe to fly astronauts.
In March, SpaceX performed two parachute tests, the company's 14th and 15th overall parachute test supporting Crew Dragon development in the Mojave Desert in Southern California.
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