Schedule for Dragon/Starliner manned flights revised

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

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"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs." --San Antonio Express-News

Capitalism in space: NASA has released a new updated planning schedule for the manned flights of both SpaceX’s Dragon and Boeing’s Starliner manned capsules.

Boeing’s first unmanned demo flight of Starliner is now set for September 17, 2019. This will be followed by SpaceX’s first manned Dragon flight, scheduled for November 15, 2019. Boeing will then follow with its first manned Starliner flight on November 30, 2019.

These are considered target dates. I have great doubts that the Starliner schedule will proceed as described, while SpaceX’s schedule is more likely.

The article also had this interesting tidbit about the upcoming launch schedule of Sierra Nevada’s unmanned reusable cargo ship Dream Chaser:

According to the document, the first flight of Dream Chaser will take place in a planned September 2021 timeframe and will see the vehicle remain berthed to the International Space Station for up to 75 days before returning to Earth to land on a runway for reuse.

There are clearly issues with all these commercial projects. For example, the GAO today released a new report citing the numerous delays in this commercial manned program and calling for NASA to come up with a more complete back-up plan.

Nonetheless, the 2020s have the potential to be the most exciting decade in space exploration since the 1960s. If all goes even close to these plans, the U.S. will have three operating manned spacecraft (Dragon, Starliner, Orion), two reusable cargo spacecraft (Dragon, Dream Chaser), one non-reusable (Cygnus), and a plethora of launch companies putting up payloads of all kinds, from planetary missions to basic commercial satellites numbering in the thousands.

Much could happen to prevent all this. Keep your fingers crossed that nothing will.


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  • TGeorge

    May I suggest adding to that list at the end: Blue Origin, Bigelow Aerosace’s station, more broad commercial access to ISS, hopefully commercial access to the lunar orbits and surface – that is if Mr Bezos gets his way aaand on top of that, if we’re lucky and all goes well a true Mars Express, courtesy of Mr Musk.
    Did I go too far? God, I hope not.

    Thank you for your work and may God give you strength to keep on fighting the good fight.

  • Edward

    TGeorge has a point. By mentioning the other launch companies, planetary missions, and commercial satellites, you went beyond the scope of the GAO report and the ISS access issue.

    Not only can we expect Begelow space habitats, considering that Bigelow has been ready for a decade, now, but we could potentially see space stations from Axiom and Ixion. We certainly should see plenty of commercial companies supplying lunar exploration rovers and landers. Commercialization of some weather data collection is also proceeding, so I would expect that to be at least a small industry by the end of the next decade.

    NASA has expected to land men on the Moon again by the end of the decade, and with Trump and Pence’s emphasis on that goal, we really should see NASA back on the Moon by then. If NASA does not make it to the Moon, then either Blue Origin or SpaceX potentially could do it by then.

    Musk is eager to get to Mars, and if all goes even close to his plans, SpaceX could have boots on Mars by the end of the decade.

    The 2020s are somewhat predictable, as we already know about several projects that commercial and government organizations want to accomplish. With these and more endeavors in work, the 2030s should be even more exciting. I expect lunar water mining and other lunar material usage by 2040. By then there should also be plenty of asteroid exploration in order to get materials with even less propellant usage than from the Moon. Lunar mining companies may even be working on mass drivers, by then, in order to compete with the potential asteroid miners.

    Or did I go too far? I hope not.

  • To Edward and TGeorge: I was trying in my summary to refer only to those projects that seemed to me to be the most likely to fly. I also did not mean it be all encompassing. I agree entirely that there are many more possibilities just over the horizon.

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