NASA Assigns Crews to First Commercial Spacecraft Flights

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05 August, 2018

Suni Williams, who is best known for running the Boston Marathon on an ISS treadmill, will be joined by rookie astronaut Josh Cassada.

The vessels, the SpaceX Dragon and Boeing Starliner, have been developed with billions of dollars in funding from NASA, which has contracted SpaceX and Northrop Grumman to make cargo deliveries to the space station since 2012.

NASA awarded contracts to Boeing and SpaceX in 2014 as part of its commercial crew program, aimed at helping private industry build spaceships to reach low-Earth orbit. While both companies had recently said they would fly their first test flights with astronauts on board by the end of this year, those flights are now scheduled for 2019.

He said the announcement advances "our great American vision" and strengthens America's leadership in space.

Four of the five astronauts named to the first Crew Dragon and Starliner flights are spaceflight veterans. He, too, has a history on the space shuttle: Ferguson piloted Atlantis for STS-115, was the commander of Endeavour on STS-126, and Atlantis for STS-135, the final space shuttle mission. NASA retired its space shuttle fleet that year, and started sending astronauts to the International Space Station aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, at a cost of $81 million (U.S.) per seat.

In a ceremony at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, the space agency revealed nine astronauts assigned to the first four crewed flights of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsules. In fact, NASA is paying Boeing and SpaceX billions to fly Americans to and from the International Space Station.

During the manned tests, the astronauts will be able to use the displays inside the spacecraft, communicate with mission control and practise manual controls during flight.

Boeing's first Starliner crew will include a former NASA astronaut who commanded the last shuttle flight in 2011, Chris Ferguson, who is now a Boeing employee. Nicole Aunapu Mann will be making her first flight; she completed her astronaut training in 2015.

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The agency said more crew members will be announced later.

American astronauts haven't launched from the USA since 2011, and the first commercial company to make that happen first will undoubtedly receive accolades. He returns to NASA after retiring in 2011. She is a retired Navy captain and test pilot and was selected as a NASA astronaut in 1998.

Victor Glover, 42, and Michael Hopkins, 49, will fly on the first operational mission of SpaceX's crewed Dragon.

It is on the subsequent missions that the crew capsules will head to the space station and dock.

"It will be thrilling to see our astronauts lift off from American soil, and we can't wait to see them aboard the International Space Station", Mr. Geyer said.

"The first flight is something you dream about as a test pilot, and you don't think it's ever going to happen to you", Doug Hurley said. He is a Navy commander and test pilot with more than 3,500 flight hours in more than 40 aircraft.

And astronauts will fly on Boeing's CST-100 Starliner sometime after that, in the middle of 2019.

Ferguson, a 56-year-old graduate of Archbishop Ryan High School and Drexel University, may get his shot to be first next year.


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