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"The resulting schedule that we have will support an uncrewed flight test in late 2018 or early 2019", said Mulholland, who manages the Starliner program for Boeing.

In a recent report, the Government Accountability Office said that further delays in NASA's so-called "Commercial Crew" program could "disrupt access to" the space station, which would be an enormous embarrassment for NASA after investing about $100 billion to build and operate it.

SpaceX carried out a pad abort test of its Crew Dragon vehicle in May 2015. The spacecraft recently underwent thermal vacuum and acoustic testing at NASA's Plum Brook Station in Ohio.

Congress ultimately boosted NASA's overall budget for the fiscal year that began on October 1 to almost $20.7 billion, part of a defense spending binge that also benefited nondefense projects.

On Friday, NASA will announce which astronauts will fly on the first commercial crew flights. Each will demonstrate their spacecraft in an uncrewed and then a crewed test flight.

If no major problems develop, SpaceX could be ready to launch another Dragon, this one with a crew on board, in the April 2019 timeframe.

Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp.is set to beat Boeing Co.in the battle to be the first company to ferry American astronauts to the International Space Station.

"I really have no visibility into SpaceX progress or the fidelity of the SpaceX schedule", he said. We calculated the potential gap based on the contractor certification milestone dates, but there could be some additional time required between that review and the first post-certification service mission to the ISS.


Although both Boeing and SpaceX still have a few milestones to reach before the launch of their respective astronaut-ferrying spacecraft, NASA is already looking ahead at resuming USA -based crewed spaceflights.

SpaceX plans to fly Demo-2, its first crewed test flight, in April 2019, while Boeing's Crew Test Flight is now slated for mid-2019, according to a new schedule that NASA released Thursday. It allows Americans to do without Russian Soyuz spacecraft. The first demonstration flight reached the orbiting lab in December 2010, and operational missions began in 2012. Data collected from these tests continue to improve accuracy of computer models in predicting parachute performance and verifying reliability. "After the uncrewed flight tests, both companies will execute a flight test with crew prior to being certified by NASA for crew rotation missions".

In May, the White Room, which astronauts will walk through just before boarding Starliner, was installed on SLC-41. Boeing also connected the upper and lower domes of its Crew Flight Test spacecraft and attached its docking system in June.

The announcement is at 10 a.m. Friday at the Johnson Space Center.

An uncrewed flight test was not a NASA requirement for certifying these systems for human spaceflight.

SpaceX continues to test its systems and integrate its launch infrastructure to support the Crew Dragon capsule.

SpaceX's Dragon crew ship, on display at the company's Hawthorne, Calif., factory in 2014. Nominally, two astronauts will be on each test flight.


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