NASA set to announce astronauts for SpaceX, Boeing missions

04 August, 2018, 18:53 | Author: Tara Reeves
  • NASA will name 1st astronauts to fly commercial spacecraft to International Space Station

Each ship requires two crewed test launches before NASA will certify it for routine flight.

NASA has confirmed a delay in the first piloted flights of Boeing and SpaceX, part of NASA's Commercial Crew programme to send humans to the International Space Station (ISS) on private USA spacecraft. Boeing is set to perform an uncrewed test of Starliner using a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket a few months after SpaceX, with a first flight with human crew expected for the middle of next year. Ferguson is the only non-NASA astronaut. What is not known is who gets to fly on which company's spacecraft, and on which flight they get to launch.

NASA's new administrator Jim Bridenstine will announce which astronauts will be on which spaceship Friday morning in Houston. From left to right: Sunita Williams, Josh Cassada, Eric Boe, Nicole Mann, Christopher Ferguson, Douglas Hurley, Robert Behnken, Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover. Mann's flight with Boeing will be her first to space. He's spent almost 29 days in space.

Crew Dragon, designed and built by Elon Musk's SpaceX, and the CST-100 Starliner, made by Boeing, are the two spacecraft being developed for NASA as part of its Commercial Crew Program.

The return of crew flights to US soil will end NASA's politically inconvenient reliance on Russian Federation for transporting astronauts to the ISS. Behnken and Hurley are scheduled to fly Crew Dragon for the first time in April 2019.

Similarly, the first Starliner is being now being outfitted for launch at Kennedy Space Center, and the test flight's Atlas V Centaur upper stage-never flown in the dual-engine configuration-ships to Florida in August. The crew includes shuttle astronauts, crew members from the International Space Station and even some who have never flown out to space.

NASA ended the shuttle program seven years ago after 135 missions as the space agency shifted its priorities to developing hardware for deep space travel.

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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 space agency selected eight of its finest active astronauts, plus one retired astronaut, from a wide array of backgrounds.

Veteran station flight engineer Mike Hopkins will be accompanied by rookie astronaut Victor Glover on the Crew Dragon's first operational flight to the station.

Both companies will also conduct abort system test flights to ensure the astronauts can safely escape should their rockets go awry. Just as in the past, all human launches will originate here on the space coast.

NASA seems confident these dates will hold, and that the commercial crew program is finally on the home stretch. She has logged 322 days in space.

The first crewed flights will only spend a short period of time in orbit before coming back to Earth.

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