NASA: ISS Flights To Resume Next Year


Starting next year, U.S. astronauts will no longer have to hitch a ride from Russia to reach the International Space Station, says NASA—both a SpaceX rocket and a Boeing spacecraft will provide ISS crew transport. “The first human spaceflight aboard a SpaceX rocket to the International Space Station (ISS) is expected to take place in June 2019, while a flight on a Boeing spacecraft is set to follow in August 2019,” NASA said last week. Before those launches, each of the vehicles must first complete uncrewed orbital flight tests, and then a crewed flight test, to be certified by NASA for ISS crew missions. NASA astronauts currently travel to the ISS aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft, and that contract is set to expire in November 2019.

The planned test flight dates are January 2019 for the SpaceX Dragon uncrewed demo, and March 2019 for the Boeing Starliner uncrewed orbital flight test. In June, SpaceX will launch a crewed test, and Boeing will do the same in August. The crewed missions will be the first to launch from the U.S. since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011. The new system won’t provide the smooth runway landings of the shuttle—to return to Earth, astronauts will return home in a space capsule beneath a parachute, which can be a bumpy ride. NASA will provide updates to the launch plans online on its new Commercial Crew blog.