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Boeing crew-capsule mission delayed after abort engines fail in test

03 August 2018

The Commercial Crew program carries some urgency because NASA has no contingency plan to keep shuttling astronauts to and from the station after next year.

The first two on the list were initially slated for this summer, but a technical failure experienced during a recent test forced Boeing to revise the entire schedule until that problem is fixed. "Our commitment has always been to provide NASA and those crews the highest level of mission assurance", said John Mulholland, vice president and program manager for Boeing's Commercial Crew effort. Crew for Boeing's Crew Flight Test and SpaceX's Demo-2 flights will each include at least a flight commander and pilot aboard to test out the systems.

Last month, the Government Accountability Office warned that the companies were slipping in their schedules toward NASA certification, with Boeing reaching that milestone in December 2019 and SpaceX a month later.

The announcement comes two days before NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine is set to reveal which NASA astronauts will fly on the CST-100 Starliner and Crew Dragon test flights.

NASA estimates have predicted even greater delays than what the agency formally announced August 2.

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.

Both Boeing and SpaceX are building spaceships to transport astronauts and restore United States access to the space station, a capacity lost when the shuttle program was retired in 2011, as planned after 30 years of operation.

US media are invited to attend the event at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston and, afterward, speak with the astronauts about their assignments.

He was a NASA scientist for 33 years.

SpaceX and Boeing have not released updated timelines for the first flights of their respective Crew Dragon and Starliner capsules.

However, both companies still have to prove that their vehicles can fly to the ISS and return safely to Earth. The first flights were scheduled for 2018.

Four veteran astronauts - Eric Boe, Douglas Hurley, Sunita Williams and Robert Behnken - were named earlier, but they were not assigned to specific missions or spacecraft. Surprisingly, only 3.0 percent of adults in the survey said NASA's top focus should be sending astronauts to the moon, while a mere 8.0 percent said a human trip to Mars or other planets should be a top priority. Those engines are created to power up if the launch rocket suffers a mishap and would eject the Starliner crew capsule to a safe distance. Initially Congress did not provide as much money as NASA requested because of skepticism that the program would succeed.

Boeing crew-capsule mission delayed after abort engines fail in test