SpaceX is scheduled for January 7 to launch its first Crew Dragon commercial ferry ship on an opiloted test flight to the International Space Station, NASA announced Wednesday an important milestone in the agency's driving force to end its sole opinion about Russian Soyuz crew ships to carry astronauts to bane .
If the Shakedown flight goes smoothly – and if a NASA security issue featured Tuesday does not show any show stops – SpaceX may be ready to launch the first piloted Crew Dragon on a Falcon 9 rocket in the June timeframe, which carries veteran NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to the Space Station.
Boeing also builds a commercial spacecraft called the CST-100 Starliner. An opilotated test flight is currently scheduled in March – a certain date has not been announced – followed by a pilot flight to the station in August. Boeing will use United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rockets to increase Starliner spacecraft on the track.
Both companies are still faced with a number of technical barriers, and the dates are primarily preliminary.
Boeing has encountered propulsion problems in Starliner's abortion system and is behind the key test schedule, while SpaceX faces "serious difficulties" under the NASA Aerospace Advisory Panel, including concerns about high-pressure helium tanks used in Falcon 9 booster and parachute problems with Crew Dragon.
But SpaceX officials say the company is about to launch in January, and hardware processing, crew training and ground support preparations are going according to plan.
However, NASA bosses are hopeful, or both companies will be certified to launch operational crew rotation flights sometime next year and end the Agency's confidence in Russian Soyuz spacecraft, the only available transportation to US, European, Canadian and Japanese astronauts since departure to space shuttle 2011.
The Opiloted Crew Dragon flight coming up in January, known as Demo-1 on the SpaceX manifesto, will be launched from Historic Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. Liftoff is expected around 11:57 pm. EST (GMT-5) when Earth's rotation carries the pad in the plane of the station's path.
Once from Falcon 9, the spacecraft is expected to accomplish an autonomous rendezvous with the International Space Station and slide into a dock at the recently modified front port of the laboratory where shuttles once berthed. After a short stay, the capsule will loosen and return to the ground with a sea splashdown.
On Tuesday, The Washington Post reported that NASA launched a comprehensive review of security cultures on both Boeing and SpaceX. In a statement, NASA said the review was intended to "ensure that companies meet NASA's workplace safety requirements, including compliance with a drug-free environment."
"We fully expect our trading partners to comply with all safety requirements at the workplace in the performance of our mission and the services they provide to the US people," continued the statement. "As always, NASA will make sure they do it."
The post, referring to sources, reported that the review was partially triggered by the recent behavior of"after he met marijuana and sipped whiskey on a podcast streamed on the internet."
A SpaceX spokesman told CBS News human spaceflight "is our company's core mission" and "nothing more important to SpaceX than this attempt".
"We take serious responsibility as NASA has entrusted us with the safe and reliable delivery of American astronauts to and from the International Space Station," he said. "For years, our engineers have worked side by side with NASA, created a strong partnership and guide the development of Crew Dragon, one of the safest and most advanced human space flight systems ever built."
He said that the company actively promotes workplace safety and managers are convinced that "our comprehensive drug-free workforce and workplace program exceeds all applicable contractual terms".
In part, a Boeing spokesman said the company's culture "ensures the integrity, security and quality of our products, our people and their working environment. As NASA's trusted partner since the beginning of the human space flight, we share the same values and are committed to continuing our legacy of trust, openness and mission's success. "
The commercial crew program grew out of a NASA sponsored competition that began in 2011 and ended in September 2014 when the agency announced that Boeing and SpaceX would share 6.8 billion dollars to develop independent space disks, the first new US crew spacecraft since the bus.
SpaceX builds Crew Dragon under a $ 2.6 billion contract. SpaceX also has NASA contracts worth more than $ 2 billion for 20 space station loading visits using opilotated Dragon capsules. A subsequent contract for unspecified amount covers additional six loading flights.
Boeing received a $ 4.2 billion contract for CST-100 Starliner development. Unlike Crew Dragon, Starliner will use parachutes and airbags for land landings in the Western United States.