Published: Fri, February 08, 2019
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SpaceX's Crew Dragon suffers third major setback

SpaceX's Crew Dragon suffers third major setback

Earlier in January, SpaceX completed the first static fire test of its iconic Falcon 9 rocket with the mounted Crew Dragon module at the Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A in Florida.

"Following the test flights, NASA will review performance data and resolve any necessary issues to certify the systems for operational missions", the agency said.

"The uncrewed flight tests are a great dry run for not only our hardware, but for our team to get ready for our crewed flight tests", Kathy Lueders, NASA's commercial crew program manager, said in the statement.

In a statement, NASA said that the initial uncrewed test flight by SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft, previously scheduled for no earlier February 23, was now scheduled for no earlier than March 2. Though they're essentially practice runs, they're still big launches, as the Commercial Crew Program will eventually be used to take astronauts from the U.S. to the International Space Station.

NASA's commercial crew program has been delayed repeatedly over the years, forcing a lengthy, expensive reliance on Russian rockets. When those first manned missions actually launch, it'll be the first time that astronauts have launched from the United States since 2011. The first unpiloted flight of Boeing's Starliner capsule is now targeted for the April timeframe.

The Crew Dragon will blast off towards the ISS for two weeks in a bid to prove its reliability and safety in carrying astronauts into space. The unpiloted capsule will execute an autonomous rendezvous with the space station, moving in for docking the day after launch.

SpaceX has been delivering cargo to the space station since 2012, under contract to NASA. The Crew Dragon is equipped with rocket engines that can quickly push the ship away from a malfunctioning booster at any point from launch pad to orbit. The rocket performed a static fire test on the pad January 24 that the company said was successful.

SpaceX Crew Dragon and Boeing's Starliner are looking to become the next rideshare providers to space.

Officials on Wednesday set March 2 as the latest launch date.

Whenever they take off, Behnken and Hurley plan to stay aboard the station for about a week before returning to Earth with another Atlantic Ocean splashdown.

Aeroplane manufacturer Boeing will conduct a similar test run of its own spacecraft, the CST-100 Starliner, on an unspecified date in April. Both craft will then have to perform abort tests and a test mission with crew aboard. Unlike the Crew Dragon, the Starliner is created to land in the western United States using parachutes and airbags.

Another US spacecraft planned to be launched to the ISS, the Starliner, is being built by Boeing.

NASA also hopes to send astronauts into space using capsules made by Boeing.

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