A Boeing Starliner crew capsule fired off a stand early Monday at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico on a mile-high test flight to validate the spacecraft’s emergency escape thrusters. Only two of the ship’s three main parachutes deployed on descent, but Boeing officials do not expect any impacts on the planned launch of an unpiloted Starliner demonstration mission to the International Space Station in December.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said this week the space agency is not unduly delaying the debut of new SpaceX and Boeing commercial crew capsules as engineers gear up for a challenging rapid-fire sequence of test flights in the next few months, all against the backdrop of in-depth safety reviews before clearing the privately-owned ships to carry astronauts.
With lingering uncertainly about when new commercial crew spaceships will be ready to launch humans, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said Thursday the space agency will replace a Japanese astronaut with a U.S. space flier on the next Russian Soyuz launch to the International Space Station. He added that it remains in NASA’s interests to pay Russia for one or more additional Soyuz seats next year to ensure the station remains continuously staffed with at least one American.
Speaking with Spaceflight Now on the sidelines of the International Astronautical Congress this week, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine offered his assessment on the status of a budget battle to secure funding for the agency’s Artemis program, which seeks to achieve the next human landing on the moon by the end of 2024.
Douglas Loverro, a veteran manager with broad experience in national security space operations, has been selected by NASA to lead the agency’s human space flight programs. He takes over at a critical moment as the agency assesses the readiness of new commercial crew ships amid a full-court press to land astronauts on the moon in 2024.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine visited SpaceX’s California rocket factory Thursday, toured the sprawling facility with founder Elon Musk and told reporters he is optimistic the company will be ready to launch the first piloted test flight of its Crew Dragon spaceship in the first quarter of next year.
Boeing officials said Wednesday that the company is targeting Dec. 17 for the launch of the first unpiloted orbital test flight of the new Starliner crew capsule from Cape Canaveral on a week-long demonstration mission to the International Space Station, a precursor to a mission with astronauts next year.
Images taken inside SpaceX facilities at Cape Canaveral and released by NASA Thursday show the Crew Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 booster assigned to an in-flight abort test of the new human-rated spaceship later this year, a prerequisite before astronauts climb aboard for a mission to the International Space Station.