SpaceX's next crewed mission won't launch next month after all.
Crew-1, which will send four astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, had been tentatively targeted for Aug. 30. But the flight will now lift off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida "no earlier than late September," agency officials wrote in an update today (July 22).
SpaceX still has a crewed mission underway — Demo-2, a test flight that launched NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley toward the ISS on May 30. Demo-2 is set to wrap up with an Atlantic Ocean splashdown on Aug. 2, weather and wave conditions permitting.
Demo-2 was designed to show that SpaceX is ready to begin operational crewed missions to the ISS with Crew Dragon and its Falcon 9 rocket. Elon Musk's company holds a $2.6 billion deal with NASA's Commercial Crew Program to fly at least six such contracted missions, the first of which will be Crew-1. The coming mission will be cleared for liftoff only after a thorough examination of Demo-2 data, SpaceX and NASA officials have said.
Crew-1 will carry four spaceflyers to and from the ISS: NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, and Japan's Soichi Noguchi. The quartet will spend about six months aboard the orbiting lab, which is the standard ISS stint. Behnken and Hurley, by contrast, are getting just a two-month orbital stay on Demo-2.
Boeing holds a NASA commercial crew contract as well, which the company will fulfill using a capsule called CST-100 Starliner. Starliner isn't ready to fly astronauts yet, however. The spacecraft must first refly an uncrewed test mission to the ISS, after failing to hook up with the orbiting lab as planned during its first attempt this past December. The makeup mission will likely launch later this year, NASA officials have said.
Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.