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The competition heats up: NASA has now added to its ISS schedule the planned launch dates for the first demo missions of SpaceX’s and Boeing’s privately built manned capsules.
For Boeing, its CST-100 will first launch on an uncrewed test flight to the Station via the “Boe-OFT” mission in Apr, 2017 – on a 30 days mission, ending with a parachute assisted return. Should all go to place, the second mission will involve a crew – yet to be selected – on a mission designated “Boe-CFT”, launching in July, 2017, on a 14 day mission to the ISS.
The [planning] dates show SpaceX to be the most advanced in the Commercial Crew path, with their projected test flight dates currently set to win the honor of being the first Commercial Crew vehicle to arrive at the orbital outpost. That first Dragon 2 mission, designated “SpX-DM1″, has a December, 2016 launch date, ahead of a 30 day mission – most of which will be docked to the ISS – ending with a parachute assisted landing in the Pacific ocean. This would be followed by “SpX-DM2″, a crewed flight, launching in April of 2017, on a 14 day mission. This would mark the first time astronauts have launched from American soil on a US built spacecraft since Atlantis’ STS-135 mission in 2011.
American manned space exploration should begin to get very exciting in the next two years, with multiple companies now capable of putting humans in space.