NASA shifts next astronaut launch with SpaceX; Boeing Starliner test flight date TBD

April 22 for Crew-2 launch; NASA assessing new Starliner OFT-2 launch date

FILE - In this May 30, 2020, file photo, a SpaceX Falcon 9, with NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken in the Dragon crew capsule, lifts off from Pad 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. For the first time in nearly a decade, astronauts blasted towards orbit aboard an American rocket from American soil, a first for a private company. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File) (John Raoux, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Launch dates in April are shifting for NASA’s Commercial Crew partners SpaceX and Boeing, the agency announced this week.

SpaceX is preparing to launch four astronauts from Kennedy Space Center to the International Space Station in April, marking the third trip for the Crew Dragon spacecraft with humans to the orbiting outpost. The flight will also mark the second operational mission, known as Crew-2, for the spacecraft.

NASA and SpaceX announced Thursday the launch date will move from April 20 to no earlier than Thursday, April 22.

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NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet will launch from Kennedy Space Center Launchpad 39A in a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Also this week, Boeing and NASA announced they are evaluating a new launch date for the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft’s orbital test flight-2, or OFT-2. The uncrewed launch was scheduled for April 2. Now teams are looking for a new target date following some delays due to winter storms in Houston and the recent replacement of avionics boxes on the spacecraft.

The space station is a busy place these days with more spacecraft docking and disembarking, so finding a new launch window may prove difficult in April.

“Based on the current traffic at the space station, NASA does not anticipate that OFT-2 can be accomplished later in April. NASA and Boeing are working to find the earliest possible launch date,” the agency said.

When it does launch, Starliner will dock at the ISS and return to Earth for its final test before NASA, hopefully, approves the spacecraft to fly astronauts. The company is repeating the orbital test flight after the first did not reach the space station due to a computer timing issue in December 2020.

“Boeing and NASA have worked extremely hard to support an early-April launch but we need to assess alternatives to ensure NASA’s safety work can be accomplished. NASA and Boeing know we fly together,” NASA’s head of human spaceflight Kathy Lueders said in a statement. “Boeing has done an incredible amount of work on Starliner to be ready for flight and we’ll provide an update soon on when we expect to launch the OFT-2 mission.”

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