NASA has agreed to consider a Boeing proposal to extend the first piloted test flight of its commercial CST-100 Starliner crew capsule from two weeks to up to six months with an extra crew member for the International Space Station, hedging against potential delays that could jeopardize U.S. crew access to the orbiting outpost.
Boeing and SpaceX hope to launch commercial crew ferry ships on long-awaited test flights later this year, but both companies face major challenges getting the spacecraft certified before late 2019 when seats aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft will no longer be easily available for NASA space station crews, officials told lawmakers Wednesday.
NASA is sure enough that Boeing and SpaceX can safely launch astronauts to the International Space Station by early 2019 to hold off paying Russia to keep flying U.S. crews to the research complex, and one official says a deadline to order parts for new Russian Soyuz crew capsules may have already passed.
When Chris Ferguson climbed into the commander’s seat of the shuttle Atlantis five years ago for the spaceship’s final flight, he didn’t know what turn his career would take when he returned to Earth. Now the former F-14 fighter pilot helps lead Boeing’s development of the CST-100 Starliner space taxi, one of two U.S.-built commercial spacecraft selected by NASA to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station.