NASA reveals crews for first flights of commercial spaceships

04 August, 2018, 01:49 | Author: Jacqueline Daniels
  • NASA is naming 8 astronauts to fly SpaceX and Boeing's new spaceships - here's how to watch the announcement live

"The men and women we assign to these first flights are at the forefront of this exciting new time for human spaceflight", said Mark Geyer, director of NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Nine astronauts were named to ride the SpaceX Dragon and Boeing Starliner capsules _ five on the first crew flights and four on the second round of missions to the International Space Station.

The astronauts assignments will be for both the test flights of Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon, which won't dock with the ISS, as well as the first post-certification missions for both private companies, which will head to the space station.

The manned test flight from Boeing will feature one NASA astronaut and one Boeing employee, most likely former astronaut Chris Ferguson.

The SpaceX crewed test flight, now scheduled for April 2019, will be flown by NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley.

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The second demo mission of SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft is set to launch in April 2019.

NASA plans to announce its final decision on the crews - two astronauts for each of the four crewed test flights - on Friday morning. Between the end of the space shuttle program and the start of commercial crew operations, Nasa's crew members have and are continuing to launch to the space station on Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Flights without any people are expected before the end of 2018, followed by two crewed missions sometime in 2019.

"The opportunity to fly in a new vehicle is any test pilot and astronaut's dream", Mike Hopkins, an Air Force colonel who will fly aboard the Crew Dragon on its first mission, wrote on Twitter.

Bob Behnken: Behnken was chosen as an astronaut in 2000 and has been to space twice on two shuttle missions. The agency landed on the Commercial Crew program, which would see Boeing and SpaceX build new vehicles that could deliver astronauts to the space station.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon will launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Boeing and Space Adventures, the US company that arranged space tourist flights on Russian Soyuz spacecraft, have a partnership that could allow paying passengers to ride in a fifth seat on CST-100 missions for shorter-duration missions.

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The Starliner spacecraft is being outfitted at the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center, according to NASA. Two top Navy pilots, Josh Cassada and Suni Williams, will be on a subsequent Starliner flight ― considered the craft's first mission.

"It's absolutely an opportunity of a lifetime", said Mann, who was selected as an astronaut in 2013.

Both companies will also conduct abort system test flights to ensure the astronauts can safely escape should their rockets go awry.

Additional crew members will be assigned by NASA's worldwide partners at a later date. Robert Behnken, Douglas Hurley, Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins will fly with SpaceX. "We had our quarterly [review] this week, and for the first time in years, it felt real".

In 2014, Boeing and SpaceX were awarded a combined $6.8 billion in contracts from NASA to develop spacecraft capable of flying crews to the station, the orbiting laboratory.

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The Starliner will launch aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. She has spent a grand total of 322 days in space including a stint commanding the space station and performing seven spacewalks.

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