SpaceX Astronaut Capsule Test Flight Delayed by One Week

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For SpaceX's test flight, NASA assigned Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, both members of several Endeavour and Atlantis missions.

Unlike approaches by unpiloted Dragon cargo ships, which halt their approaches just short of the station and wait for the lab's robot arm to lock on and pull them in for berthing, the Crew Dragon will fly a computer-guided rendezvous all the way to docking at a modified port at the front of the space station.

Boeing's crewed launch is scheduled for August.

More time is still needed to complete testing, training and safety reviews, according to NASA.

President Trump vowed to send USA astronauts "back to space on American rockets" during his State of the Union address on Tuesday night - and now NASA officially has a launch date. The Commercial Crew Program was originally scheduled to get off the ground in January with the launch of SpaceX's Demo-1, followed by Boeing's Orbital Flight Test in March.

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If those crewed demos go smoothly, SpaceX and Boeing could become the first commercial American companies to send people to the International Space Station.

NASA's Commercial Crew Program will return human spaceflight launches to US soil, providing safe, reliable and cost-effective access to low-Earth orbit and the space station on systems that meet safety and performance requirements. Recovery crews will haul the craft to shore for detailed post-flight examination. The company successfully test-fired the rocket with Crew Dragon aboard in early January at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. SpaceX already has conducted a successful on-pad abort test.

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. Since the retirement of the space shuttles in 2011, NASA has been paying Russian Federation to launch astronauts to the station and bring them home.

Boeing, which is also contracting with NASA to carry astronauts to the space station, was planning a March test of its Starliner capsule, but that flight was pushed back Wednesday to no earlier than April. Boeing plans to run this test in May, and SpaceX will perform its version in June. When those first manned missions actually launch, it'll be the first time that astronauts have launched from the United States since 2011.

If all goes well, operational crew rotation flights could begin well before the end of the year.