SpaceX and NASA have agreed to reschedule the first demonstration mission (Demo-1) of SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule for 10 days.
The test flight of SpaceX's Dragon capsule was earlier scheduled to take place on 7th January 2019, but now it will be conducted on 17th January 2019, according to NASA.
"We still have more work to do as the certification process, hardware development and readiness reviews continue," said Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Programme.
"We are not driven by dates, but by data. Ultimately, we'll fly SpaceX Demo-1 at the right time, so we get the right data back to support the in-flight abort test and the next test flight when our astronauts are aboard."
Currently, NASA uses Russian Soyuz spacecraft to send its astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). NASA's Space Shuttle retired seven years ago, and since that time, NASA has been purchasing seats aboard the Soyuz spacecraft. The contract will run out in 2019, but before that, NASA wants an American commercial vehicle to be ready to maintain its access to the ISS.
SpaceX and Boeing are currently working to create such spacecraft for NASA under its Commercial Crew Programme.
Demo-1 is a high-stakes mission for SpaceX as well as NASA. The mission will provide vital data about the performance of the rocket, spacecraft, autonomous docking system and the landing system. While there won't be any passengers aboard the Demo-1 test flight, a small error could delay NASA's plans of sending its astronauts to the ISS using an American spacecraft.
A fuel leak on Boeing's CST-100 Starliner capsule this year has already caused a several months' delay in the testing schedule for the capsule.
Assuming everything goes as planned for Demo-1 flight, SpaceX will then need to demonstrate a flawless functioning of its in-flight emergency abort system. In October, a similar system in Soyuz spacecraft came into play during a failed rocket launch and saved the lives of two passengers within the capsule.
SpaceX hopes to launch its crewed Demo-2 mission in April next year. The flight will take two astronauts aboard the Dragon-2 capsule to space. If all systems work as planned, NASA could give SpaceX permission to commence regular crewed missions to the ISS starting September 2019.
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