SpaceX delays flying astronauts until 2018

Dragon at space station
An artist’s conception shows SpaceX’s crew-capable Dragon approaching a port on the International Space Station with a cargo Dragon in the foreground. (NASA Photo)

NASA has confirmed that the commercial space taxis being developed by SpaceX and the Boeing Co. will start carrying astronauts to the International Space Station no earlier than 2018, and there’s a chance the schedule could slip even further.

Any further schedule delays could create further complications, considering that NASA hasn’t purchased seats aboard Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft for flights past 2018. In September, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said NASA wasn’t “presently looking at any additional seats beyond those that we have already purchased.”

Until SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner enter service, the Soyuz vehicles provide the only approved way to get astronauts to and from the space station. NASA’s most recent reservation with the Russians sets aside seats through the end of 2018, at a cost of $81.7 million per round trip.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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