To certify that the vehicles are ready to be used by NASA, the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Boeing's CST-100 Starliner must pass three test missions: one without a crew and two with a crew. Boeing's capsule is reusable up to 10 times with a six-month turnaround time, according to Starliner mechanical engineers. Coupled with the technical challenges inherent in any human spaceflight development program, the systems have been repeatedly delayed and NASA's dependence on Russian Federation extended. Boeing was scheduled to launch its first crewed test mission in November 2018, with SpaceX's equivalent flight coming the next month.
Boeing said it revised its schedule in part because of a problem during a static-fire test of the abort engines for its CST-100 Starliner vehicle in June, when several valves failed to close properly at the end of a 1.5-second test. Initially Congress did not provide as much money as NASA requested because of skepticism that the program would succeed. SpaceX is targeting April 2019 for its crewed demonstration flight, Demo-2.
"This was above and beyond the NASA requirement in the contract", said Kathy Lueders, Commercial Crew Program manager at NASA Kennedy.
It has been widely expected that those dates would slip, however.
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The news confirmed what a recent report issued by the U.S. Government Accountability Office had predicted - that the program's timeline was unrealistically optimistic. The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held a hearing on the status of the commercial crew program in January at which GAO's Cristina Chaplain presented those results based on earlier analysis. "If NASA does not develop options for ensuring access to the ISS in the event of further Commercial Crew delays, it will not be able to ensure that the USA policy goal and objective for the ISS will be met", the report argued. Experts believe that with the latest complications, the first uncrewed flight test will take place at the end of 2018 - the beginning in 2019 and the manned flight test will take place in mid-2019.
Also, the organization will declare the crew tasks for the foremost post-certification operation and crew flight tests for both SpaceX and Boeing, in a press conference to be chaired over by Jim Bridenstine, the NASA Administrator. Only 3 percent said NASA's top focus should be sending astronauts to the moon, while a mere 8 percent said a human trip to Mars or other planets should be the agency's main goal.
"Tomorrow we will meet the astronauts who will be the first to fly the CST-100 Starliner". That modification is meant to "optimize the program flow", said John Mulholland, Boeing vice president and commercial crew program manager, noting that the abort system is not needed for the uncrewed flight test.