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NASA puts SpaceX, Boeing ISS flight test dates 'under review'

Get ready for more delays in launching NASA crews from US soil.

SpaceX celebrated a successful Crew Dragon demonstration flight, but a crewed mission may not happen for awhile.

NASA/SpaceX

If you had August circled on your calendar to watch Boeing send its first Starliner to the International Space Station, you might be disappointed. 

NASA appears to have wiped the August schedule off the board and replaced it with a message that Boeing and SpaceX flight test dates for the Commercial Crew Program are now "under review."

The two private companies are both working on crew capsules designed to launch astronauts from US soil to the ISS. NASA has been relying for years on Russian rockets and spacecraft to transport personnel.

NASA had been making an effort to offer more timely updates on flight test schedules, but that approach managed to highlight the delays. Space developments rarely happen on clean, linear timelines. Tests go wrong, equipment needs adjustments. Delays are normal.

The Commercial Crew Program has already seen its share of triumphs and stumbles. SpaceX smoothly and successfully completed its first uncrewed Demo-1 test flight to the ISS in March, but a Crew Dragon capsule later exploded during a ground test in April. 

"NASA and our partners want to fly astronauts as quickly as we can without compromising the safety of our astronauts and always will give safety precedence over schedule," NASA said in the release on Tuesday.

The space agency just went through a significant leadership shakeup in July. Former astronaut Ken Bowersox took over as the administrator for the human exploration office, replacing long-time leader William Gerstenmaier. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine has directed the office to reexamine flight dates and "deliver realistic schedule plans" once the new leadership is in place. 

NASA said safety improvements to the spaceflight systems have impacted the test schedules. While space fans had anticipated seeing crewed flights to the ISS before the end of the year, we may easily slip past 2019 without launching humans into orbit from the US. 

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