Boeing's first uncrewed test flight of its CST-100 Starliner vehicle, previously scheduled for March, is now expected no earlier than April. Neither NASA nor SpaceX explained why they are delaying the test, but we can only assume that the 35-day shutdown of the government messed with their schedule, considering many NASA employees were not on site during the shutdown. If all goes well on the upcoming uncrewed missions, test pilots could launch in the Crew Dragon as soon as July and the Starliner in August.
NASA said in a statement: "These adjustments allow for completion of necessary hardware testing, data verification, remaining NASA and provider reviews, as well as training of flight controllers and mission managers".
The launch would mark the first orbital flight of a private space taxi.
The first two SpaceX flights will ultimately be "dress rehearsals" for future missions that feature astronauts aboard, according to officials.
In mid-January, a source told Sputnik that a manned Dragon 2 mission would fly to the ISS in July 2019 with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley on board. Both flights will be tests.
These initial flights in the Commercial Crew Program will be unmanned.
The Crew Dragon and Starliner spacecraft are the centerpieces of NASA's drive to resume launching USA astronauts aboard US rockets from US soil, ending the agency's sole reliance on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to ferry crew members to and from the International Space Station. After the uncrewed flight tests, Boeing and SpaceX will complete a flight test with crew prior to being certified by NASA for crew rotation missions.
In order to meet NASA's requirements, both SpaceX and Boeing must demonstrate an ability to safely and efficiently transport crews into space.
Unlike approaches by unpiloted Dragon cargo ships, which halt their approaches just short of the station and wait for the lab's robot arm to lock on and pull them in for berthing, the Crew Dragon will fly a computer-guided rendezvous all the way to docking at a modified port at the front of the space station.