NASA released an updated schedule of commercial crew test flights August 2 that confirms Boeing's revised plans as well as delays for SpaceX's two demonstration missions.
SpaceX plans to fly Demo-2, its first crewed test flight, in April 2019, while Boeing's Crew Test Flight is slated for mid-2019.
NASA is due to live-stream the announcement from Johnson Space Center in Texas at 11 a.m. ET (8 a.m. PT) Friday, with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine presiding. However, as per a latest US Government Accountability Office report, neither is anticipated to be prepared until 2019.
"While we know there's quite a bit of interest and focus on who will fly first, NASA is more interested in both of them flying successfully", Stephanie Schierholz, a spokeswoman for the USA space agency, said Thursday. The TESS Science Team will start looking at the details for new planets right away after the first string if data arrives. Flights without any people are expected before the end of 2018, followed by two crewed missions sometime in 2019.
"NASA is continuing to assess multiple scenarios to ensure continued United States access to the International Space Station", Schierholz wrote in an email earlier this week.
The crews will begin training to get ready for their launch.
NASA stands at the very edge of an incredibly exciting time in space exploration. The first test was set for 2017, but it was delayed to this end of summer (Boeing delaying it to the end of the year).
The hardware for these uncrewed missions is being prepared for launch.
"During the startup of that test, all engines responded nominally", said John Mulholland, vice president and program manager for Boeing's commercial crew programs, during a conference call.
SpaceX has not publicly revised its Crew Dragon schedule.
SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket.
"After the uncrewed flight tests, both companies will execute a flight test with crew prior to being certified by NASA for crew rotation missions", NASA communications specialist Stephanie Martin wrote in a blog post.
These flight tests will have similar configurations to the uncrewed tests, but the crew will have the ability to interface with spacecraft displays, communicate with mission control, and practice manual controls during flight. "They're verifying crew layout, doing simulations where they're actually practicing their maneuvers, and also checking out the software and the display systems, and everything else for the crew to be functioning safely in the spacecraft".
The companies see launching astronauts as a step toward a near-future in which space travel reaches beyond low-earth orbit.