Nearly two months have passed since the SpaceX Dragon II capsule exploded during testing, and Jim Bridenstine, NASA Administrator, has now confirmed publicly that "the anomaly" has postponed the launch schedule. Boeing also had problems with his Starliner CST-100 vehicle. At this rate, crew launches with commercial rockets may not occur this year.
SpaceX has not released an official report on the April blast and the investigation could last for months. In the weeks leading up to the incident, SpaceX launched the same spacecraft on the unmanned International Space Station (ISS). The ship docked at the ISS in full autopilot and then returned to Earth. The Dragon II used his parachutes for gently land in the ocean where he was picked up and transported to the test facility of SpaceX Cape Canaveral
It is unclear whether the explosion suggests a design problem with the Dragon or it's just a damage caused by the landing. If this is the last case, NASA may not require any changes to the commercial crew program – it will not drive any reused vehicles during crewed missions. SpaceX could be a little worried, however, as it plans to fly Dragon II missions with refurbished equipment. Some observers have speculated that the problem could be related to SpaceX's SuperDraco abandonment engines, which run on liquid rather than solid fuel, like most spacecraft.
Whatever the result, Jim Bridenstine admits that this has delayed the chronology of the commercial crew. "There is no doubt that the calendar will change," he said at a press conference in Paris. SpaceX was leading while Boeing and everyone were working to send humans into the ISS. Boeing was late last year when a fuel leak from his CST-100 Starliner vehicle appeared during testing.
The crew launch of SpaceX is still technically scheduled for July, but it looks like it will not happen. Boeing is currently on track to complete its unmanned test flight in November, a few weeks later, with the crew.
In the meantime, NASA uses Russian Soyuz capsules for its transport to and from the ISS. However, the number of seats is low, which could be a problem if neither SpaceX nor Boeing can solve the problem before the end of NASA's Soyuz contracts next year.