Boeing, SpaceX may miss target to send astronauts to space station

The SpaceX capsule is a beefed-up human-rated version of the Dragon capsule already used to deliver cargo Boeing’s craft is named Starliner

That's the top suggestion in the GAO's latest report on the SpaceX and Boeing crew capsules under development. Pictured here is the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft, a human-rated version of which is being developed to bring astronauts to space.

The report warns that "without a viable contingency option for ensuring uninterrupted access to the ISS in the event of further commercial crew delays, we concluded that NASA is at risk of not being able to maximize the return of its multibillion-dollar investment in the space station". Right now, both SpaceX and Boeing are working independently to meet that demand, but a new report from the Government Accountability Office reveals that neither of them are as far along as they should be, and that's not great news to USA astronauts. Both space companies are behind schedule, with the report revealing that NASA anticipates Boeing being slightly closer to completion than SpaceX.

In the report, NASA said it was working closely with its commercial partners to resolve the issues and was developing contingency plans in case of further delays. "NASA needs to develop a backup plan for ensuring a United States presence on the International Space Station and clarify how it will determine its risk tolerance for loss of crew", the agency said in a statement late on Wednesday. The space station has relied on Russian's Soyuz spacecraft to shuttle its crew to the ISS, leaving a potential gap between when that contract ends and the two contractors' systems are certified. Since its last launch from the United States back in 2011, NASA has been paying Russian Federation up to $82 million per seat on the Soyuz.

The Congressional watchdog agency also detected deficiencies in safety and risk assessment in the new spacecraft.

Since 2014, the two private companies have been mounting a bid to be the first to fly Americans again to space.

The 2 companies were engaged by the U.S. space agency NASA in 2014 to develop rockets that could transport astronauts to the space station when the current contract with Russia's Soyuz expires in November 2019. Based on an analysis conducted in April, the GAO estimates an average certification date for the companies at December 2019 for Boeing and January 2020 for SpaceX.

There are now 3 Americans, 1 German and 2 Russians aboard the space station, where astronauts generally stay 5 or 6 months.

Each company plans a test flight without passengers, before putting astronauts on board.

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