Elon Musk's SpaceX program has now decided to officially delay the launch of the latest spacecraft, the Dragon capsule, to 2018. This is despite the fact that it would disappoint millions of people who are expecting a lot out of the private space transportation company. The launch of the new spacecraft was scheduled to happen in 2017, to be followed immediately by a manned NASA mission within the same timeframe.
According to a report from TechCrunch, the main reason for the delay is likely for the company to fully fix their latest Falcon 9 rocket. The rocket, which will be used to launch the Dragon capsule into orbit, is currently experiencing some issues with its fueling system.
Earlier in the year, the company experienced a devastating blow when its two-stage-to-orbit launch vehicle exploded on the launch pad during its pre-flight fueling procedure. Official statements from the company explained that they simply had to assess the vehicle's design, system, and processes following the incident.
The explosion has understandably concerned the engineers responsible for the vehicle, who are now reportedly working tirelessly to make sure that it doesn't happen again. NASA is also concerned, as it does not want to put a loaded crew into the Dragon capsule if there is even the smallest chance that the rocket would explode during refueling.
Space X is now planning to do an unmanned demo launch of the capsule sometime in November of 2017. The launch would also include tests for the company's new spacesuits and parachutes.
Meanwhile, SpaceX's main competitor in the private space transportation business, Boeing, has also announced a delay in the launch of their new CST-100 Starliner to 2018. Given Space X's recent delay announcement, Boeing will now have a head start in launching their spacecraft, which is scheduled for a test flight in June 2018, followed by a manned mission in August of that year.