NASA has announced that SpaceX's no-load rocket test has been pushed back to March 2 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. NASA has made SpaceX and Boeing responsible for transporting astronauts starting this year. SpaceX uses its Falcon 9 rocket, at the top of which is fixed a Dragon capsule specially designed to accommodate astronauts. This capsule is meant to take astronauts to the International Space Station. Before launching with humans aboard, however, SpaceX must perform a no-load mission.
It was originally set for early January and the date of March 2 is not set in stone. Any technical glitch still could postpone the test. If all goes well, the first manned flight is scheduled for July 2019.
At Boeing, the no-load test will not take place until April, with a manned mission starting in August. Founded by Elon Musk, SpaceX makes most of its money from multibillion-dollar contracts with NASA and satellite launches.
SpaceX in November won authorization from US officials to put nearly 12,000 satellites into orbit in order to boost cheap, wireless internet access by the 2020s.
Serial entrepreneur Musk has risen to prominence with a series of ambitious ventures, especially Tesla, which has boosted production of its Model 3 electric car and has continued to enjoy strong demand for the vehicle. Other Musk ventures include OpenAI, Neuralink and the Boring Company, which focuses on infrastructure and tunnels.
Meanwhile, SpaceX plans to lay off 10 per cent of its more than 6,000 employees. "To continue delivering for our customers and to succeed in developing interplanetary spacecraft and a global space-based Internet, SpaceX must become a leaner company," the California-based company, headed by Elon Musk, said in a statement earlier on January 12. "Either of these developments, even when attempted separately, have bankrupted other organizations," it added.
"This means we must part ways with some talented and hardworking members of our team." It added that the trim down was "only due to the extraordinarily difficult challenges ahead." Citing an email sent to employees on Friday, the Los Angeles Times said the company was offering those affected a minimum of eight weeks' pay and other benefits, including career coaching and resume assistance.
The Wall Street Journal reported last month that the company was raising $500 million from investors to help launch its satellite internet service.