NASA and SpaceX aim for March launch of Crew Dragon capsule

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SpaceX created the Dragon 2, which will fly to the station in two modifications, Crew Dragon 2 and Cargo Dragon 2 based on the original Dragon spacecraft.

"NASA's Commercial Crew Program will return human spaceflight launches to U.S. soil, providing safe, reliable and cost-effective access to low-Earth orbit and the space station", the agency said, "on systems that meet safety and performance requirements".

SpaceX test fired the engines of a Falcon 9 rocket last month at the Kennedy Space Center's historic pad 39A to clear the way for the first test flight of the company's Crew Dragon astronaut ferry ship.

The space agency says the extra time will be used to complete necessary testing and reviews as well as train flight controllers and mission managers.

NASA's Commercial Crew Program confirmed this week a delay to its planned test flight of SpaceX's Crew Dragon module. The capsule, which was supposed to go to the International Space Station (ISS) on January 7, has been delayed twice already since then, Engadget reported.

Crew Dragon's crew-carrying demonstration is now scheduled for July, and Starliner's for no earlier than August, according to the new NASA update.

NASA announced Wednesday the first unpiloted test flight of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and a Crew Dragon astronaut ferry ship has slipped from later this month to March 2.

The uncrewed demonstration launch of Crew Dragon is now set for March 2 and Starliner will perform a similar launch no earlier than April. Both the manned and unmanned flights will be tests.

"The first flights are dress rehearsals for missions with astronauts aboard the vehicles". Both flights will be tests. This one, also without crew, will take place in April at the earliest.

"We are excited about seeing the hardware we have followed through development, integration, and ground testing move into flight".

The date to resuming launches of US astronauts from the Space Coast is slipping into late 2019, according to the new launch timeline updated by NASA. Once they are completed, the Starliner will be certified by NASA for regular flights to the ISS.

Blue Origin is also developing a crew capsule that might carry passengers by year's end.

The following planning dates reflect inputs by the Commercial Crew Program and the two companies and are current as of February 4, 2019.

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