KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – To hold space fans over until the first Crew Dragon spaceflight with astronauts on board, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk shared a video this week showing what the NASA astronauts will experience as they blast off into space on a Falcon 9 rocket.
It’s been a busy year with major milestones -- and setbacks -- as both SpaceX and Boeing inch closer to launching astronauts from the Space Coast.
The last time NASA astronauts launched from U.S. soil was in 2011. As part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, Boeing and SpaceX have been developing spacecraft to end that gap in human spaceflight from Cape Canaveral.
However, both companies still have more challenges ahead in the new year as they prepare to launch people for the first time.
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon had a successful test flight -- sans astronauts -- in March to the International Space Station and the company is planning a launch abort test in January. Following an extensive review of the data from that test, SpaceX will next launch NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken on the first crewed test flight to the ISS.
Musk recently shared a simulated video on Twitter showing what Hurley and Behnken will experience as they walk the crew access arm at Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A into the Crew Dragon capsule and launch on a Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station.
Musk said the spacecraft and rocket for that historic flight should be ready at Cape Canaveral in February but “completing all safety reviews will probably take a few more months.”
As always launch dates are subject to change but if all goes well and NASA certifies Crew Dragon to fly humans, we could see the astronauts launch from U.S. soil for the first time in almost nine years during the first half of 2020.
Meanwhile, Boeing is reviewing data from its astronaut spacecraft, the CST-100 Starliner, after its uncrewed orbital test flight earlier this month. That test flight ended early after a computer error on Starliner. The spacecraft did not dock with the space station as planned.
No date for a crewed test flight of Starliner has been set yet. NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Mike Fincke, along with NASA astronaut turned Boeing pilot Chris Ferguson will be on board that flight.
After Starliner’s recent test flight was cut short, Fincke and Mann said they remained confident in Boeing and its spacecraft.