SpaceX, Boeing Commercial Crew flights delayed by NASA (again)

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NASA announced in August previous year the names of the first four astronauts who will fly the Crew Dragon module in 2019.

NASA's Crew program chose two commercial companies - SpaceX and Boeing to create capsules that will send astronauts to the International Space Station.

SpaceX, though, has been making progress, including rolling out the Crew Dragon spacecraft atop its Falcon 9 rocket to Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in early January for tests.

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The launch would mark the first orbital flight of a private space taxi. But launch dates for both flights have just been pushed to the right, NASA announced today (Feb. 6). The US space agency is now targeting March 2 for the launch of SpaceX's Crew Dragon and "no earlier than April" for Boeing's unmanned flight test.

In a statement, NASA said that the initial uncrewed test flight by SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft, previously scheduled for no earlier February 23, was now scheduled for no earlier than March 2. Both the manned and unmanned flights will be tests.

The first two SpaceX flights will ultimately be "dress rehearsals" for future missions that feature astronauts aboard, according to officials.

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"We are excited about seeing the hardware we have followed through development, integration, and ground testing move into flight". A crewed test flight, with NASA astronauts Mike Fincke and Nicole Mann, and Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson, is scheduled for no earlier than August.

The Crew Dragon and Starliner spacecraft are the centerpieces of NASA's drive to resume launching USA astronauts aboard US rockets from US soil, ending the agency's sole reliance on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to ferry crew members to and from the International Space Station.

To meet NASA's requirements, the commercial providers must demonstrate their systems are ready to begin regular flights to the space station. "NASA has been working together with SpaceX and Boeing to make sure we are ready to conduct these test flights and get ready to learn critical information that will further help us to fly our crews safely". The Crew Dragon demonstration flight was originally planned for January.

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Now playing: Watch this: NASA taps SpaceX, Boeing to bring space travel back under. Following the test flights, NASA will review performance data and resolve any necessary issues to certify the systems for operational missions.