Poll

When will the first commercial orbital crew be launched from the US

3rd quarter 2015
6 (3.5%)
4th quarter 2015
21 (12.1%)
1st quarter 2016
26 (15%)
2nd quarter 2016
13 (7.5%)
3rd quarter 2016
20 (11.6%)
4th quarter 2016
26 (15%)
1st quarter 2017
19 (11%)
2nd quarter 2017
8 (4.6%)
3rd quarter 2017
13 (7.5%)
4th quarter 2017
4 (2.3%)
Not until 2018 or later
13 (7.5%)
NASA will launch crew before commercial crew does
4 (2.3%)

Total Members Voted: 173

Voting closed: 06/30/2014 11:30 pm

Author Topic: When will the first commercial orbital crew be launched from the US  (Read 20056 times)

Offline Alpha Control

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I'm going with Q4 2015.  SpaceX have essentially sailed through the transition from Falcon 9 to F9 v1.1, with the first 3 flights of v1.1 all successfully reaching orbit.

That's pretty remarkable for a relatively new entrant in the launch business. They won the Bronze Medal in December 2010, when Dragon became the first commercial spacecraft to reach orbit & return to earth.  That was followed by winning the Silver Medal in May 2012, as Dragon became the first commercial spacecraft to visit the ISS.

I think that they really want to win the Gold Medal, by becoming the first commercial company to fly crew to & from earth orbit.  That would truly be historic - joining only three nations to ever to do that:  Russia, the U.S., and China.  The vision of a Dragon returning to Earth, and personnel wearing SpaceX jumpsuits emerging from the vehicle, I think will push this forward to Q4 2015.
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Offline sdsds

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I disagree FH is a bigger priority there are customers for FH, but other than NASA customers for a crewed Dragon are few and far between.

I respect your disagreement. I'll just point out this notion that SpaceX is a customer-needs-driven company is not yet proven.
-- sdsds --

Offline Robotbeat

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The in-flight abort test is the most challenging step in this process, i think. When they've got that done, there won't be a ton standing in their way but funding. And a pad, which will be lc39a. Basically everything else challenging (other than ECLSS) is analogous to Dragon cargo.

We shall see how long it takes to build LC39A out to their purposes and ready to fly Dragon. It may take well into 2015 just for that part.
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Offline joek

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I'm betting SpaceX 1Q 2016. To achieve this they will make it a priority over FH. This is what Dragon was designed for. It will give them a solid "first mover" advantage in the crew transportation market. And it will keep them visibly progressing towards their corporate Über-Goal.
I disagree FH is a bigger priority there are customers for FH, but other than NASA customers for a crewed Dragon are few and far between.

If SpaceX wins a CCtCap award they will be contractually committed to a very high profile project with cost and schedule constraints--a project SpaceX has aggressively pursued, and that has been years in the making at great effort.

Offline joek

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The in-flight abort test is the most challenging step in this process, i think. When they've got that done, there won't be a ton standing in their way but funding. And a pad, which will be lc39a. Basically everything else challenging (other than ECLSS) is analogous to Dragon cargo.

We shall see how long it takes to build LC39A out to their purposes and ready to fly Dragon. It may take well into 2015 just for that part.

Yes, that is one reason I voted for a late 2016 first crew test flight.  SpaceX can fly the in-flight abort test from LC-40.  Crew will require additional pad work and infrastructure, presumably at LC-39A.  I expect it will take approximately two years before they are ready to launch anything from LC-39A, and longer before they are ready to launch crew.

In any case, the schedule will be determined by CCtCap--not when SpaceX thinks they may be capable of launching crewed flights.  The first crewed test flight is most likely to occur near the end of CCtCap, which based on notional schedules previously presented, would put it late 2016 or early 2017, followed by ISS crew flights starting in late 2017.

Online Jarnis

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The optimist in me says in 2015. Q3-Q4.

But the realist slides that to the right a bit, knowing that manned spaceflight requires a lot more testing and is a new thing for SpaceX. It is one thing to sign off slightly risky "...but it should work" bits for an unmanned launch and then celebrate when it all worked out. The stakes are totally different when a couple of guys are sitting on top of all that. The rocket is in good shape but the manned capsule and everything related to that is a complex problem.

So Q2 2016 and I think even that is slightly optimistic.

I would just vote "2016" if I could as there are so many steps on the road towards that and any development / testing mishaps can easily add a quarter or two to the schedule as problems are uncovered and corrected.

Offline sdsds

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the schedule will be determined by CCtCap--not when SpaceX thinks they may be capable

By that you're sort of saying that NASA might hold SpaceX back. Or am I reading too much into your comment?
-- sdsds --

Offline joek

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the schedule will be determined by CCtCap--not when SpaceX thinks they may be capable
By that you're sort of saying that NASA might hold SpaceX back. Or am I reading too much into your comment?

More that NASA may want to keep SpaceX from being overly aggressive, over-committing, and damaging themselves as well as the commercial crew program in the process.  NASA's end goal is to have a certified crew transport capability.  A crew test flight is obviously one point on that path, but achieving it at the earliest opportunity (as much as many people seem to focus on) is not necessarily required, desirable, or optimal.  I see this less as NASA holding SpaceX back and more as providing adult supervision.

Offline QuantumG

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NASA's end goal is to have a certified crew transport capability.

NASA isn't homogeneous.

Quote from: joek
I see this less as NASA holding SpaceX back and more as providing adult supervision.

Thankfully, no-one at NASA has so far used words to that effect.. publicly or within ear-shot of the partners.
Human spaceflight is basically just LARPing now.

Offline joek

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NASA's end goal is to have a certified crew transport capability.
NASA isn't homogeneous.
What else is new?  For the context-insensitive, I'll rephrase: NASA's commercial crew program end goal ...

Offline woods170

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I voted for 2018 or later. The willingness at SpaceX (and the other contenders) to do it much earlier is clearly there, but the bucks won't be. Congress wil continue it's trend of woefully underfunding commercial crew for the years to come. The impact will be (IMO) that none of the commercial crew providers that are currently in the contest (SN, Boeing and SpaceX) will make the 2017 deadline.

Call me a pessimist...
« Last Edit: 01/10/2014 09:30 am by woods170 »

Offline Ben the Space Brit

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I voted "First Quarter 2016" but I want to emphasise that this is a "no later than" line for me.

This could change and radically if SpaceX fall into a major pothole but this vote is based on current apparent progress.
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Offline Elmar Moelzer

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Congress wil continue it's trend of woefully underfunding commercial crew for the years to come. The impact will be (IMO) that none of the commercial crew providers that are currently in the contest (SN, Boeing and SpaceX) will make the 2017 deadline.
I think that while congress will do its "best" to achieve this, SpaceX is well funded enough to do it earlier anyway. Plus, they have other reasons to do it that just commercial crew. So I am hopeful to see it earlier, even if commercial crew itself will take longer.

Offline yg1968

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the schedule will be determined by CCtCap--not when SpaceX thinks they may be capable
By that you're sort of saying that NASA might hold SpaceX back. Or am I reading too much into your comment?

More that NASA may want to keep SpaceX from being overly aggressive, over-committing, and damaging themselves as well as the commercial crew program in the process.  NASA's end goal is to have a certified crew transport capability.  A crew test flight is obviously one point on that path, but achieving it at the earliest opportunity (as much as many people seem to focus on) is not necessarily required, desirable, or optimal.  I see this less as NASA holding SpaceX back and more as providing adult supervision.

The date of the milestones are provided by the company based on when they expect to accomplish them. If SpaceX wants to complete their program earlier than others they are free to propose earlier dates. But we'll find out what the real dates are when CCtCap is awarded. The 2015 date that SpaceX gave for the CCiCap optional milestones was based on an assumption that funding was not an issue.  But we now know that funding is an issue. It will be interesting to see how much commercial crew gets in the soon to be released Appropriation bill for FY 2014. 
« Last Edit: 01/10/2014 03:36 pm by yg1968 »

Offline oiorionsbelt

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Just came across this article from 2011.
 19 flights seems a rather random number :)

http://www.parabolicarc.com/2011/01/21/spacex-plans-put-humans-space-19th-falcon-9-flight/

Offline StealerofSuns

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Congress wil continue it's trend of woefully underfunding commercial crew for the years to come. The impact will be (IMO) that none of the commercial crew providers that are currently in the contest (SN, Boeing and SpaceX) will make the 2017 deadline.
I think that while congress will do its "best" to achieve this, SpaceX is well funded enough to do it earlier anyway. Plus, they have other reasons to do it that just commercial crew. So I am hopeful to see it earlier, even if commercial crew itself will take longer.

I voted 4th quarter 2015 for more or less the reasons stated above, though 1st or second quarter 2016 wouldn't surprise me.

SpaceX really does seem to have a certain drive to get things done, and not just for Commercial Crew.
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Offline Avron

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SpaceX really does seem to have a certain drive to get things done, and not just for Commercial Crew.

based on "SpaceX is like Special Forces… we do the missions that others think are impossible. We have goals that are absurdly ambitious by any reasonable standard, but we’re going to make them happen. We have the potential here at SpaceX to have an incredible effect on the future of humanity and life itself. — Elon Musk"

2nd quarter 2017.. funded or otherwise ..

Offline joek

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The date of the milestones are provided by the company based on when they expect to accomplish them. If SpaceX wants to complete their program earlier than others they are free to propose earlier dates. But we'll find out what the real dates are when CCtCap is awarded. The 2015 date that SpaceX gave for the CCiCap optional milestones was based on an assumption that funding was not an issue.  But we now know that funding is an issue. It will be interesting to see how much commercial crew gets in the soon to be released Appropriation bill for FY 2014.

Agree that dates may be proposed, but NASA reserves the right to negotiate changes in content, pricing and schedule (that was the case for CCiCap, and is also the case for CCtCap).  Also, while the CCtCap initial proposals are due Jan 22 2014, there are several steps, with "final proposal revisions" due June 2014.  There will undoubtedly be quite a bit of negotiating until then.

I also suggest SpaceX's optional milestone for a crewed test flight in 2015 was at best an aggressive token placeholder, and not something I would bet the farm on.  The dates for CCiCap optional milestones in the original proposals are not a commitment; the actual date is negotiated at the time NASA selects an optional milestone for execution.  Thus there was no risk to SpaceX being aggressive with dates for optional milestones in their original CCiCap proposal.

As you say, funding is (and as importantly has been) an issue.  In the best case SpaceX might conceivably have achieved a crewed test flight in 2015.  Unfortunately the best case left the building long ago, with the inevitable slide to the right.

Offline Orbiter

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My guess is a early-2016 orbital test flight paid out of pocket by SpaceX.
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Offline yg1968

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The date of the milestones are provided by the company based on when they expect to accomplish them. If SpaceX wants to complete their program earlier than others they are free to propose earlier dates. But we'll find out what the real dates are when CCtCap is awarded. The 2015 date that SpaceX gave for the CCiCap optional milestones was based on an assumption that funding was not an issue.  But we now know that funding is an issue. It will be interesting to see how much commercial crew gets in the soon to be released Appropriation bill for FY 2014.

Agree that dates may be proposed, but NASA reserves the right to negotiate changes in content, pricing and schedule (that was the case for CCiCap, and is also the case for CCtCap).  Also, while the CCtCap initial proposals are due Jan 22 2014, there are several steps, with "final proposal revisions" due June 2014.  There will undoubtedly be quite a bit of negotiating until then.

I also suggest SpaceX's optional milestone for a crewed test flight in 2015 was at best an aggressive token placeholder, and not something I would bet the farm on.  The dates for CCiCap optional milestones in the original proposals are not a commitment; the actual date is negotiated at the time NASA selects an optional milestone for execution.  Thus there was no risk to SpaceX being aggressive with dates for optional milestones in their original CCiCap proposal.

As you say, funding is (and as importantly has been) an issue.  In the best case SpaceX might conceivably have achieved a crewed test flight in 2015.  Unfortunately the best case left the building long ago, with the inevitable slide to the right.

I agree with everything you said. That is a fair analysis. I also don't believe that NASA is trying to slow down SpaceX on purpose. The political and government process is slow but that is true for every company (not just SpaceX).

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