CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (FOX 35 ORLANDO) - A question SpaceX and NASA have been reluctant to answer since the explosion of a test crew capsule last month is: Are manned missions to space still going to happen this year? The answer: Yes, they could.
The spirit of competition is even more at play, to see which company will do it first. According to a media release from NASA, SpaceX has crew capsules on standby. Meanwhile, SpaceX's chief competitor, Boeing, is catching up fast.
"It's still conceivable to see a manned mission this year," said Space Florida Executive Dale Ketcham.
NASA says the explosion that occurred on April 20 is not the end of the line for the Crew Dragon program. A NASA photograph shows the capsule moments before it blew up, but NASA says SpaceX had a second capsule, pretty far along into the production process.
That second pod will now be used for the incredibly important abort test, which could be later this summer. Then, in the fall or the end of 2019, the manned mission to the International Space Station could still take off.
"Space X os good at identifying the problems, identifying what the fix should be, and employing them," Ketcham said.
Boeing also wants to send astronauts back into space. The company plans to send its pod, unmanned, to the space station in August. Then, they'll need to do their own version of an abort test.In short, the schedules between the two companies are aligning. Fall and winter could be a nail-biter of a final lap.
"We've got a race, who's going to win that's kind of the fun," Ketcham said.
Had it not been for that SpaceX explosion we could've seen a manned mission this summer. The first since the shuttle program was canceled. But officials say 2019 is still in play.