NASA urged some commercial companies to start thinking about what to do next as the United States plans to relinquish its space shuttle mission carrying 30 years of space missions in 2010, the Atlantic Monthly reported on January 18. NASA gave them a total of 50 million U.S. dollars to design their future space transportation technology. Before the project was successful, NASA needed to pay Russia to send its US astronauts to the ISS.
On Wednesday, some of the partners involved in the partnership gathered in the U.S. Congress and faced with government legislators reporting on the latest developments in their projects. Sitting at one end of the table was Bill Gerstenmaier, who is NASA's deputy director of human exploration and operations and has an optimistic view of the commercial manned flight project. He claimed: "With the rapid development of manufacturing, the project has entered a crucial period. Testing has been completed, NASA is also verified and confirmed. It will take about a year and this project will be able to send the first astronaut to the International Space Station. & rdquo;
Sitting at the other end of the conference table is Cristina Chaplain, head of the U.S. government accountability office and overseeing multiple inspections of commercial manned flights. She also learned some bad news from some governments trying to reinstate astronaut transport capabilities. SpaceX and Boeing, the two companies that NASA is contracting for space transportation technology, plan to send a human astronaut to the International Space Station in a test flight in 2019. But they also need to undergo rigorous safety testing and pass the test, and they have exceeded the scheduled time.
The two companies signed an agreement with NASA in 2014 and plans to pass the final validation in 2017. However, according to a report by the Accountability Office, SpaceX may not be able to guarantee normal ISS service until December 2019, and Boeing will have to wait until February 2020. Chaplain claims: "The two companies have made a lot of effort to meet safety standards. Positive schedules and delays are not typical in the development of new rocket or spacecraft projects. But in this project, the delay and the final date of the test also allow us to think whether the United States can get to the space station after 2019. & rdquo;
Sitting between Gerstenmaier and Chaplain are SpaceX and Boeing representatives, Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of SpaceX, and John Mulholland, vice president of Boeing. All of them pledged their congressional membership here, and their companies were well prepared to follow the project schedule. However, the report of the accountability office brought different contents and predicted more delays in the future.
Brian Babin, a Republican member from Texas, said: "SpaceX and Boeing are lagging behind schedule and may not be able to meet safety and reliability requirements and may even have cost overruns. Both companies have made progress, but not at their intended pace, and will face enormous challenges in terms of safety and reliability. To remedy this, NASA may need additional investment or take huge risks, but both are not viable. & rdquo;
Commercial manned flights have been suffering from delays since the start-up phase. NASA delayed its original target date from 2015 to 2017 and postponed again until mid-2018. Last week, NASA again announced some delay: SpaceX and Boeing unmanned flight plans are scheduled for August, with manned flights scheduled for November and December respectively. Gerstenmaier claims: "The project was completed longer than initially planned, but many technical issues were discovered and resolved. Additional time spent in the development phase will help us reduce the risk. & rdquo;
Chaplain said the two companies have made 9 and 6 project delays respectively since U.S. astronauts signed an agreement with SpaceX and Boeing to invest a total of $ 6.8 billion in manned transportation systems. She claims both companies are currently dealing with some security issues. Boeing is trying to find ways to prevent the Star Trek from overriding in some mission-neutral scenarios as it threatens the safety of astronauts. Boeing is also investigating whether the thermal shield of the spacecraft could damage the parachute system when the spacecraft re-enters the atmosphere. In the meantime, SpaceX is responding to the safety issue raised by NASA's Security Advisory Committee on the safety of refueling Dragon astronauts.
Now that U.S. astronauts want to travel to the ISS on the Russian Union Soyuz, each of them needs to pay 70 million to 80 million U.S. dollars to Russia. And the United States has booked two seats for 2019 in order to prevent any further delays in commercial manned flights. NASA may not be so lucky if SpaceX or Boeing is still not ready for manned flights thereafter. If by the time NASA wants to continue buying Russian spacecraft seats, perhaps waiting for the new Soyuz spacecraft to be assembled, the process will take three years.
In some cases, the race to test a manned spacecraft between SpaceX and Boeing has become a race between the two companies over time. The United States and its international collaborators plan to retire the International Space Station by 2024. If routine manned flights are delayed as foreseen by the AAC as late as 2019 and early 2020 to the late 2020s, the initial purpose of the project may not be achieved. NASA has selected the astronauts involved in the test flight of commercial manned flight systems. If the delay continues or the worst happens, these astronauts will find themselves nowhere to go.