SpaceX launch crisis: Elon Musk unlikely to send manned crews to ISS in 2019 | Science | News

The two rocket companies will most likely not send astronauts into orbit any time soon according to a US Government audit report.

and Boeing were both expected to carry out a number of rocket flights after NASA’s contract with Russia’s Soyuz runs out in November 2019.

Both companies were approached by NASA four years ago in 2014 to develop rockets capable of transporting astronauts to the ISS.

The fruit of SpaceX’s work on the task was the Dragon Crew Module which can house up to seven astronauts per launch.

But the independent Government Accountability Office (GAO) now said the US looks to suffer a gap in accessibility to the orbital laboratory.

The GAO said: “There may be a gap in access to the ISS if the Commercial Crew Program experiences additional delays.

“While has begun to discuss potential options, it currently does not have a contingency plan for how to ensure an uninterrupted presence on the ISS beyond 2019.

“It is possible that neither contractor would be ready before August 2020, leaving a potential gap in access for at least nine months.”

Before any launches to the ISS take off, the GAO said NASA has to verify both contractors’ spacecraft are absolutely safe for manned missions.

But the agency noted NASA currently does not have a “consistent approach for calculating this metric” and the results vary invariably by whoever is conducting the audit.

The 47-page-long repot also accused NASA of managing a multibillion-dollar program “without confidence” in the launch schedules.

The reports said: “We found that both contractors have updated schedules that indicate delays are forthcoming for at least one key event, but NASA officials told us they lack confidence in those dates until they are officially communicated to NASA by the contractors.

“As a result, NASA is managing a multibillion dollar program without confidence in its schedule information as it approaches several big events, including uncrewed and crewed flight tests

The GAO suggested NASA could circumvent the SpaceX conundrum by purchasing additional astronaut seats from the Russians.

But the report conceded this could further delay NASA’s plans until 2021 because the manufacturing and contracting process typically takes three years to complete.

NASA officially ended its Shuttle Program in 2011 and has since relied on Russian rockets to put astronauts in orbit around the Earth.

The GAO report added the risk of future delays is “critical information” for NASA.

When SpaceX entered the picture in 2008, the US-based company founded by South African Billionaire Elon Musk, was award an ISS Cargo resupply contact.

SpaceX’s Dragon capsule is expected to be certified for spaceflight by the start of 2020.

Boeing is meanwhile developing a manned space capsule dubbed the Starliner which will accommodate up to seven astronauts per launch.

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