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First flights of Boeing and SpaceX astronaut capsules are delayed to 2019

First flights of Boeing and SpaceX astronaut capsules are delayed to 2019
The first U.S. astronauts who will fly to the International Space Station in either Boeing Co. or SpaceX crew capsules. NASA said Thursday that the capsules' first, uncrewed flights will now occur in 2019, instead of this year. (NASA / AFP/ Getty Images)

The first flights of the astronaut capsules built by Boeing Co. and SpaceX will be delayed until next year, according to an updated schedule released Thursday by NASA.

Hawthorne-based SpaceX is now set to launch its Crew Dragon capsule without a crew in January, compared with a prior estimate of November. Boeing solidified March as the date of its Starliner capsule’s uncrewed test flight; the Chicago aerospace giant had previously said that flight would occur in late 2018 or early 2019.

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Test flights with human crews aboard are now scheduled for summer 2019 for both companies.

NASA said SpaceX was working to have its capsule ready by December, but “docking opportunities” at the International Space Station pushed the launch a month later. A NASA official said in a statement that the agency expected dates could change as the launch time approached.

“These are new spacecraft, and the engineering teams have a lot of work to do before the systems will be ready to fly,” Phil McAlister, director of NASA’s Commercial Spaceflight Development, said in the statement.

SpaceX spokeswoman Eva Behrend said in a statement that the company was “on track” for launch readiness in December, noting that it has done substantial training and mission simulations, “end-to-end Dragon checkouts,” and installed a crew access arm for the astronauts to board the capsule at the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Boeing said in a statement that it was working with NASA to ensure its capsule “flies at the earliest time it is safe to do so.”

“We continue to mitigate risks and evaluate our schedule as we move through each phase of the program,” the company said.

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