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NASA, SpaceX push back Crew Dragon test launch to ISS

We'll have to wait a few more days before Crew Dragon earns its space wings.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon during testing in an anechoic chamber earlier in 2018.
Elon Musk

The next big step forward for NASA's Commercial Crew Program has hit a slight delay. The first test launch of SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule is now scheduled for Jan. 17. NASA announced the change from the original Jan. 7 launch date late last week. 

Currently, NASA ferries astronauts to the ISS on board the Russian Soyuz spacecraft. The Commercial Crew Program is working to get capsules made by SpaceX and Boeing into service to allow launches from US soil.  

The uncrewed SpaceX Demo-1 mission is aiming to reach orbit and the ISS with an assist from a Falcon 9 rocket.

NASA hopes to launch a crewed mission, called Demo-2, later in the year. Prior to that, the capsule will also need to pass a test of its in-flight emergency abort system, a critical safety setup that came into play during a failed Soyuz launch to the ISS in October.

NASA Commercial Crew Program manager Kathy Lueders said there's still more work to do for the Demo-1 certification process, as well as continued hardware development, software testing and readiness reviews.

Delays for space missions aren't unusual. 

"We are not driven by dates, but by data," Lueders said. "Ultimately, we'll fly SpaceX Demo-1 at the right time, so we get the right data back to support the in-flight abort test and the next test flight when our astronauts are aboard."