CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Two NASA astronauts and a cosmonaut are on their way to the International Space Station aboard a Soyuz spacecraft.
But by this year's end, astronauts could be launching on commercial spacecraft from U.S soil and private rockets may also be used for the Orion spacecraft’s test flight to the moon.
NASA is targeting next summer for Orion’s unmanned launch, and the agency is considering a commercial assist.
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Anticipated delays with NASA’s Space Launch System rocket could put the unmanned mission around the moon in June 2020 in jeopardy.
On Wednesday, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told a Senate committee there's another option.
“If we tell you and others that we're going to launch in June of 2020 around the moon, which is what EM-1 is, I think we should launch around the moon in June of 2020,” Bridenstine said. “And I think it can be done. We need to consider as an agency all options to accomplish that objective. Some of those options would include launching the Orion crew capsule and European service model on a commercial rocket.”
Dale Ketcham, with Space Florida, said that could actually benefit the Space Coast.
“The plan is we don't have to wait on SLS, we could use two heavy boosters that are right now off the shelf,” Ketcham said. “Because that will expedite the process and get us moving forward more quickly to the development of lunar habitats, descent modules, ascent modules, other forms of hardware that are going to be part of that lunar architecture.”
We should know in the next few weeks if NASA will stay with SLS or go commercial for next year's moon test flight.
We need to consider all options to meet the Exploration Mission-1 target launch date of June 2020, including launching on commercial rockets. pic.twitter.com/fR5b2NzPtg— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) March 13, 2019
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