In the wake of its September 1st rocket explosion, SpaceX has officially delayed the first crewed flight of its Crew Dragon vehicle — the capsule that the company is building to take NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Originally planned for late 2017, the first flight of the Crew Dragon with people on board is now slated to take place in May of 2018, according to a NASA blog post. Prior to that flight, SpaceX will perform a demonstration mission of Crew Dragon in November 2017 — a flight that won't include any astronauts.
There had been heavy speculation that the flight would be delayed following the accident, in which a Falcon 9 rocket exploded as it was being fueled on a Florida launch pad. And SpaceX says the move was made as the company finalizes its investigation into the accident. "As this investigation has been conducted, our Commercial Crew team has continued to work closely with NASA and is completing all planned milestones for this period," SpaceX said in a statement to The Verge. "We are carefully assessing our designs, systems, and processes taking into account the lessons learned and corrective actions identified. Our schedule reflects the additional time needed for this assessment and implementation."
It marks yet another delay for NASA's Commercial Crew Program, the space agency's initiative to fly astronauts on American-made rockets again. Through the program, two private companies — SpaceX and Boeing — are building vehicles capable of carrying people into lower Earth orbit for NASA. SpaceX is updating its Dragon cargo capsule, a vehicle it already uses to transport supplies to the International Space Station, and Boeing is making an entirely new capsule called the CST-100 Starliner.