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SpaceX manned spaceflight plans delayed to Q2 2018

Posted on Wednesday, December 14 2016 @ 14:14:31 CET by

SpaceX announced its first crewed launch of the Dragon v2 capsule will not take place in 2017. The previous schedule called for a Spring 2017 launch but in wake of the September explosion of a Falcon 9 rocket, the manned launch is delayed to May 2018. An unmanned test of the new Dragon capsule is expected in late 2017.

WSJ provides a bit more background information over here. Elon Musk's private space company claims they need more time to implement measures to enhance reliability.
The company privately reported the slippage to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration earlier this year and confirmed it on Monday. The nearly one-year delay, to the second quarter of 2018 from the spring of 2017, comes in the midst of top-priority efforts to develop new launchpad fueling procedures affecting the company’s entire fleet of Falcon 9 rockets. A company spokesman initially described it as a slip of several months, but a NASA document indicates the initial manned mission had been targeted for April 2017.


In an email on Monday, a SpaceX spokesman said: “We are carefully assessing our designs, systems and processes” to incorporate lessons learned and take corrective actions in the wake of the September explosion. The schedule change “reflects the additional time needed for this assessment and implementation,” he added. But in his comments, the SpaceX spokesman also suggested some prospective fueling changes are likely in response to the panel’s specific safety concerns. “As needed, additional controls will be put in place to ensure crew safety,” he said. SpaceX previously talked about adjusting fueling rate and pressure during ground preparations.
SpaceX hopes to return to (unmanned) launches in January 2017.

At the moment, the US has no manned spaceflight capability. Since the retirement of the costly Space Shuttle program in 2011, the US has been forced to rely on Russian Soyuz capsules to service the ISS. Boeing is in competition with SpaceX, the former expects to test its CST-100 Starliner in June 2018, before commencing a crewed test flight in August 2018.

Below is a video of the rapid unscheduled disassembly (RUD) of a Falcon 9 during the September static fire test.



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