SpaceX Demo-1 Slips to February

SpaceX Demo-1 Slips to February

SpaceX’s uncrewed test flight of its Crew Dragon, Demo-1, will not take place until February according to the company’s founder and CEO Elon Musk.  NASA initially announced a January 7 launch date, which slipped to January 17, but yesterday Musk tweeted that the flight was “About a month away.” He also warned that it will be “especially dangerous” since so much new hardware is involved.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine cautioned in November that the January 7 date was announced only to allow foreign media to begin the process necessary to attend the launch.  He listed a number of factors that could cause delays: “There are reviews in Dec to decide configuration, waivers and date. Intl partners, the range, and ISS availability could also impact schedule.”

Musk did not say why the date slipped. NASA is one of the agencies whose operations are affected by the partial government shutdown, but  SpaceX did not respond to a query today as to whether the shutdown was responsible in whole or in part.

SpaceX is under contract to NASA to provide crew transportation services to the International Space Station (ISS) using the Crew Dragon/Falcon 9 system. It will launch from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, which SpaceX leases from NASA.

Progress is being made, however. Over the weekend, the Crew Dragon spacecraft atop its Falcon 9 rocket was erected onto its launch pad. Musk tweeted photos of that as well, including one showing the vehicle on the pad with the astronaut walkway in place.  Demo-1 has no crew, but astronauts will board the vehicle using that walkway in the future.

In reply to a question, he warned that the flight will be risky.

Spaceflight is risky.  Of that there is no doubt.  That is why NASA required SpaceX and its competitor for “commercial crew” flights, Boeing,  to fly uncrewed test fights first.  Next will be crewed test flights after which NASA will certify the systems for operational missions.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program website lists tentative dates for the SpaceX and Boeing test flights.  It continues to show January 17 as the SpaceX Demo-1 flight, but the website probably is not being updated during the shutdown.  The SpaceX crewed test flight, Demo-2, is shown in June 2019.  Boeing’s uncrewed test flight is scheduled for March 2019 and its crewed test flight in August 2019.

The United States has not been able to send astronauts to the ISS since the space shuttle was terminated in 2011.  NASA has been purchasing crew transportation services from Russia at about $82 million per seat.  It hopes to have the SpaceX and Boeing systems operational this year since its contract with Russia expires soon.  However, NASA officials have repeatedly said that once the U.S. systems are operational, Americans will continue to ride on Russian Soyuz vehicles, and Russians will fly on the U.S. vehicles, since all must be trained on both in case of an emergency.

User Comments has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.