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SpaceX and Boeing have been working on their space taxi programs for almost four years, with the aim of transporting astronauts to and from the space station for NASA.

Mission controllers, with astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor monitoring, will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to release Dragon at 12:37 p.m. EDT Friday.

Boeing continues to manufacture its Starliner spacecraft inside NASA Kennedy Space Center's Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility in Florida.

The space agency also confirmed Boeing's plan to put off its first crewed space taxi mission until mid-2019, and geared up to announce who'd be on the first space taxi flights for SpaceX's Crew Dragon as well as Boeing's Starliner. Both companies have matured their designs, are making significant progress through their extensive testing campaigns, and are headed toward flight tests to validate their systems. "If NASA does not develop options for ensuring access to the ISS in the event of further Commercial Crew delays, it will not be able to ensure that the USA policy goal and objective for the ISS will be met", the report argued. The suits that NASA astronauts wear during spacewalks at the International Space Station are total relics, and the last suits that were worn on the surface of something other than Earth (so, the Moon) now collect dust in museums. Experts believe that with the latest complications, the first uncrewed flight test will take place at the end of 2018 - the beginning in 2019 and the manned flight test will take place in mid-2019.

However, the U.S. Government Accountability Office warned last month that certification delays for the two companies could, for a while, leave NASA with no way to get American astronauts onto the ISS.

NASA/Kennedy Space Center (via Flickr); Boeing; Shayanne Gal/Business InsiderAn illustration of SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft (left) and Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spacecraft (right).

Also in June, Boeing, ULA and NASA simulated an evacuation from SLC-41 to practice escaping from the pad in the unlikely event of an emergency on launch day. Crew for Boeing's Crew Flight Test and SpaceX's Demo-2 flights will each include at least a flight commander and pilot aboard to test out the systems.

Today, John Mulholland, Vice President and Program Manager for Boeing's commercial crew program, made CST-100 Starliner's delay official. The chamber allowed SpaceX and NASA to verify Crew Dragon's ability to withstand the extreme temperatures and vacuum of space.

Each test flight will provide data on the performance of the rockets, spacecraft, ground systems, and operations to ensure the systems are safe to fly astronauts. Flights without any people are expected before the end of 2018, followed by two crewed missions sometime in 2019.

SpaceX has not publicly revised its Crew Dragon schedule.


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