SpaceX Tourist Flight To Moon Delayed

SpaceX is reportedly delaying plans to send paying tourists into space, though the delay appears to be relatively brief.  

The company founded and run by entrepreneur Elon Musk had initially targeted a flight to send a pair of civilians around the moon by the end of this year.

Musk had noted earlier that two people had already expressed their interests in becoming the first space-faring tourists to go beyond Earth orbit, and he said plans were still in place for their training.

What has changed is the time frame for the flight.

The mission, which is profiled to be flight from Earth to lunar orbit and back to Earth again, had been targeted for late this year.

It now appears to have been pushed into the year 2019.

The delay seems to be caused by a delay in getting critical hardware "human-rated." 

Both the Falcon Heavy rocket and the Dragon 2, or Crew Dragon, space capsule have to be certified as safe for humans, and the testing schedule or both has lagged.

The Falcon Heavy has already flown one mission, but more successful flights are needed to certify it as "human-rated." 

The Crew Dragon capsule, which is the SpaceX capsule designed to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station and other destinations in Earth orbit and beyond, has yet to have its first test flight.

Plans are for the Crew Dragon to have an unmanned test flight as early as this summer.

That flight, should it be successful, is slated to be followed by crewed test flights, which should clear the way for the tourist flight.

Should SpaceX manage to keep to its current schedule, and should all the hardware perform properly, a 2019 round-trip between Earth and the moon would not be out of the question.

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