NASA's first test of the SpaceX Falcon 9 unmanned rocket and the Crew Dragon spacecraft is scheduled for January 7.
The release, called Demo-1, is scheduled for 11:57. ET at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
As part of the Commercial Crews Program, this test marks a milestone in NASA's quest to once again take astronauts to the cosmos – for the first time the Space Shuttle was dropped in 2011.
The agency will closely monitor performance by collecting data from the SpaceX rocket, Crew Dragon and grounding system and anchor operations.
"After the test flights, NASA will analyze performance data and solve problems as needed to certify systems for operational missions," according to a recent blog post.
Assuming everything goes well, a second test, Demo-2, will take astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to the International Space Station in June.
A similar timeline is in effect for Boeing: Disarmed orbital test flight in March, manned flight test in August.
However, management reminds people that, "As with all human spaceflight development, learning from each test and adjusting it as necessary to reduce the risk to the crew can negate planning dates."
There is also a small edition of Boeing's and SpaceX's safety culture review, which is expected to last for months, and should begin next year, which could hamper early testing.
As soon as manned test flights are successfully completed, NASA will certify spacecraft and systems for regular ISS missions. The agency has hired six missions (with up to four astronauts each) per company.
A first operational mission is scheduled for August 2019, followed by a second operational mission in December.
A team of nine – seven men and two women – was introduced this summer as the first American astronauts to fly commercial spacecraft.
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