Oct 6, 2018

Resumption of human space launches from U.S. hits more delays

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

After an absence lasting 9 years, the U.S. is seeking to resume launching humans to space from American soil.

But this time it won’t be NASA doing the launches — it will be Boeing and SpaceX, private contractors that NASA selected to transport crew to the International Space Station.

  • Both companies have a track record of satellite launches but are untested when it comes to human spaceflight.
  • They're also relying on entirely new and as-yet untested spacecraft.

Safety is a major sticking point, particularly the standards by which NASA, Boeing and SpaceX calculate the odds of killing or permanently disabling an astronaut.

  • One of these standards is known as the "loss of crew" standard, for which the space agency has set a 1-in-270 probability for Commercial Crew providers to meet in order to be certified to fly NASA astronauts to the ISS.

For example, NASA has expressed concern about the safety of SpaceX’s plan to fuel the rocket with potentially explosive propellant after the astronauts board the Crew Dragon capsule.

  • In July, the Government Accountability Office said NASA had not applied consistent safety standards to SpaceX and Boeing spacecraft designs and launch plans.
  • The GAO said meeting the standards has also been difficult from the companies’ perspectives, given the novelty of their designs.
  • Boeing told Axios it expects to "exceed" NASA's safety requirements for loss of crew and mission capability.

Where it stands: NASA, SpaceX and Boeing have announced their initial commercial crew test flight and ISS mission astronauts, who are now training for these flights. Both companies are planning for uncrewed test flights early next year, with the first crewed tests to come later in 2019 and possibly continue into 2020.

The schedule has been subject to multiple delays, the most recent of which occurred on October 4.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify that the first uncrewed flight tests will take place in early 2019.

Go deeper

Virus vices take a toll on Americans

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Americans are doubling down on their worst habits to cope with the mental and emotional stress of the coronavirus pandemic.

Why it matters: The pandemic will have a long-lasting impact on health of the American people, in part due to the habits they will pick up during the weeks and months they are forced to stay home.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3:30 a.m. ET: 1,203,923 — Total deaths: 64,795 — Total recoveries: 247,273Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3:30 a.m. ET: 312,237 — Total deaths: 8,502 — Total recoveries: 14,997Map.
  3. Public health latest: CDC launches national trackers and recommends face coverings in public. Federal government will cover costs of COVID-19 treatment for uninsured. The virus is hitting poor, minority communities harder and upending childbirth.
  4. 2020 latest: "We have no contingency plan," Trump said on the 2020 Republican National Convention. "We're having the convention at the end of August."
  5. Business updates: Restaurants step up for health care workers. Employees are pressuring companies to provide protections during coronavirus.
  6. Oil latest: Monday meeting among oil-producing countries to discuss supply curbs is reportedly being delayed amid tensions between Saudi Arabia and Russia.
  7. Education update: Many college-age students won't get coronavirus relief checks.
  8. 1 🏀 thing: The WNBA postpones start of training camps and season.
  9. What should I do? Pets, moving and personal health. Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  10. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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World coronavirus updates: Confirmed cases top 1.2 million

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

The number of novel coronavirus cases surpassed 1.2 million worldwide Saturday night, as Spain overtook Italy as the country with the most infections outside the U.S.

The big picture: About half the planet's population is now on lockdown and the global death toll was nearing 64,800, by Sunday morning, per Johns Hopkins data.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 4 hours ago - Health