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The competition heats up: Both SpaceX and Boeing say that they are on schedule to make their first test flights of their manned capsules before 2016.
Boeing claims they will be able to make their first manned flight in 2016. SpaceX says it will fly manned by 2015.
Boeing, with its CST-100, still aims to demonstrate the seven-person capsule on a three-day manned orbital test flight in 2016, says John Mulholland, vice president and program manager for Commercial Programs. At the recent Space Tech Expo in Long Beach, Calif., he said CST-100 “can be operational as soon as 2016. It is really important for NASA to maintain the ‘no-later than 2017’ launch date. That’s the No. 1 priority and I think NASA, with good reason, wants to maintain competition through the next round. That would be healthy as long as you have the budget to allow that competition in the next round and still fly in 2017.” …
SpaceX Commercial Crew project manager Garrett Reisman says his company’s plan to conduct a pad abort test in December remains on track, paving the way for a test flight to the space station with a non-NASA crew in a version of the Dragon spacecraft in 2015. “What we think we need to complete launch assurance is just over two years, so we could do a test with people on board around mid-2015. That is what we proposed under CCiCAP and it is the trajectory we are on today but,” depending on funding, that may not hold,” he warns.
No one should be surprised if both schedules are not met. For one thing, new rocket engineering takes time and is routinely delayed. For another, the funding from Congress is problematic. The politicians haven’t eliminated the program, but they keep trying to trim it in order to dump more money into the NASA-designed Space Launch System (SLS), which costs ten times as much and doesn’t expect to make its first manned mission until 2021 and will then have a heart-stopping launch rate of one flight every four years.