NASA announced about contracting with SpaceX manned mission into a space.
Another step in the increasing commercial contribution in manned space missions has been done. NASA announced that SpaceX will be contractor for next manned mission to International Space Station. First mission was contracted in May 2015, with Boeing – another participant in Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) program. NASA strongly stresses necessary of diversification of launch service for manned missions. According to Kathy Lueders, manager of Commercial Crew Program:
“It is important to have at least two healthy and robust capabilities from U.S. companies to deliver crew and critical scientific experiments from American soil to the space station throughout its lifespan.”
Missions are scheduled for late 2017 and until this time SpaceX and Boeing are forced to finish their vehicles: Dragon and CST-100 and pass through certification procedure. Both Companies will help to return faith in American space industry, because after retiring Space Shuttle in 2011 NASA was forced to use Russian Soyuz vehicle (what in current situation was not comfortable for U.S. Government). SpaceX and Boeing will be granted with contracts for minimum two and maximum six missions. During every mission each spacecraft will take four NASA crew members and about 100 kg of pressurized payload. Spacecraft remain docked to ISS for around 210 days. CCtCap program will let increasing number of crew members on ISS to seven.
Boeing is closing to finish with preparing tests of their CST-100. At Kennedy Space Center previous Orbiter Processing Facility 3 (OPF-3) changed into Commercial Crew & Cargo Processing Facility (CC&CPF) where two modules of CST-100: Service Module and Crew Module will be assembled. Atlas V launch tower is also modified to meet demands of launching Atlas with CST-100 on atop. Boeing planned pad abort tests on February 2017, first unmanned flight in scheduled on April 2017 (it would last 30 days). First manned test launch and 14 days flight will take place on July 2017.
SpaceX had launch abort test positively finished on 16 May 2015. As propulsion tests were finished lately, SpaceX (described in this post), SpaceX seems to be more advanced in general mission preparations. First test flight with no crew is planned for December 2016 and it will last 30 days. 14 days crewed test mission is planned by SpaceX on April 2017. Falcon-9 1.2v is still far behind Atlas V in terms of reliability because of simple reason – it was not launched yet. At the moment SpaceX delayed first start of Falcon from November to December, with SES-9 communication satellite onboard. Day date is still not confirmed but from the beginning of 2016, SpaceX planned another launches with 1.2v, so December launch seems to be a deadline.