The development of commercial crew vehicles is a tedious and slow process. There are many things the manufacturers have to take into account when producing vehicles that must be able to safely sent astronauts into space and bring them back to Earth. This is the reason why companies such as SpaceX and Boeing have repeatedly delayed their flight tests; before launching such vehicles into space they must make sure that everything functions accordingly.
Uncertain flight tests schedules create problems in preparing future ISS operations for NASA
A few days ago, Kirk Shireman, the International Space Station Program Manager, expressed his concerns in regards with the Commercial Crew Development Program and the consequences it might have on the future ISS operations.
As it is well known, the Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) is a NASA administered program that has as a goal crewed missions to the ISS on privately operated crew vehicles. SpaceX and Boeing are the two companies that were awarded contracts to carry out this task.
It is no secret that the two are working day and night to manufacture the best commercial crew vehicles for NASA, but their early predictions on the dates of different launch and flight tests have undergone changes due to unpredictable glitches on their vehicles.
Kirk Shireman is right to express concern on the matter as planning ISS operations is not child play. The procedures must be planned a long time before they are scheduled considering that we’re talking about human beings in an inhospitable place such as space that, more importantly than anything, need supplies to survive. In addition, there are several spacewalks that are imperious to happen due to repairs needed on the ISS instruments.
What the two companies have to do before their vehicles being ready for launches into space is to carry out successful unmanned and manned test flight programs. Boeing forecasts to conduct its first uncrewed Starliner test flight at the end of September or the beginning of October. SpaceX’s uncrewed test flight was a success, but it still have to have the same result for its Dragon 2 crewed test flight.
The CCDev program manager could not say for sure the measures NASA would adopt in the event that SpaceX and Boeing will continue to be behind schedule.