SpaceX was on track to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) in late 2017 with its Dragon capsule, then a rocket mysteriously blew up on the launchpad. So the company is officially delaying manned flights until 2018.
NASA has confirmed the first manned Dragon flights are now scheduled for May 2018. SpaceX now plans to perform an unmanned test flight for the new Crew Dragon ship in November 2017. Along with SpaceX, Boeing is also planning a flight test for its Crew Space Transportation (CST-100) in June ahead of a crewed mission in August. The delay was expected following the explosion earlier this year, and SpaceX told The Verge it came about due to the continued investigation into the explosion. It’s apparently winding down, but the additional time bumped the schedule.
The Dragon Crew mission is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew program, which has tasked the private space industry with developing crafts to carry U.S. astronauts to and from the International Space Station (U.S. space explorers currently have to depend on Russia to get them into orbit, and will continue to do so until at least 2018 now).
The schedule change is also a blow to SpaceX’s larger ambitions to put humans on Mars by 2025, since every delay on the front end will almost certainly be felt on the back end in some way. But, regardless of the timeline, the most important thing is to make sure whoever straps in will be safe (or as safe as possible) when the mission arrives.