The five astronauts assigned to the first flights gathered Friday at Johnson Space Center in Houston for the announcement.
Not only will the manned test flights be the first time astronauts fly to the space station aboard commercial spacecraft, but they will also be the first launch of "American astronauts on American-made spacecraft from American soil" since NASA retired its space shuttle program in 2011, the space agency said.
(AP) In addition to naming the crews of the test flights, Nasa also announced today the four astronauts who will fly aboard the first operational Starliner and Dragon missions to the space station.
NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will be the test flight astronauts for SpaceX's Dragon, Bridenstine said. The agency has contracted six missions, with as many as four astronauts per mission, for each company.
USA astronauts now take Russian capsules to the space station, with NASA paying as much as $82 million a seat. Flights without any people are expected before the end of 2018, followed by two crewed missions sometime in 2019. At first, it seemed like a logical idea - private space enterprises are rapidly becoming all the rage in the United States and beyond, with more than one private company already planning their own space stations for the decades to come.
The two astronauts that the SpaceX company will send later will be Mike Hopkins, who spent 166 days in the space lab, and Victor Glover, who will be making his debut. On Friday, they revealed the crew members who will be carrying out the Space agency's first commercial flights.
"Space has transformed the American way of life", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Boeing said only that it would fly NASA's astronauts by the middle of next year. The test flight with crew is scheduled for mid-2019. This will be Mann's first launch, having joined the astronaut corps in 2013.
On the first operational mission to the International Space Station, Sunita Williams and Josh Cassada would fly for Boeing.
Since 2010, that program has inched along, moving ever-closer to crewed and uncrewed test flights. The astronauts are, from left to right: Sunita Williams, Josh Cassada, Eric Boe, Nicole Mann, Christopher Ferguson, Douglas Hurley, Robert Behnken, Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover. He is a colonel in the Air Force, where he was a flight test engineer before being selected as a NASA astronaut in 2009. Sometimes called the "Commercial Crew Cadre", those astronauts are seasoned veterans who've worked closely with Boeing and SpaceX on their new spacecraft and systems over the past three years.
SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft will be launched on one of the company's Falcon 9 rockets, while Boeing's Starliner will hitch a lift on United Launch Alliance's Atlas 5. She has spent a grand total of 322 days in space including a stint commanding the space station and performing seven spacewalks. But while the newly announced crews are excited to once again launch from Florida instead of Kazakhstan, they aren't very nostalgic for the hardware of the shuttles themselves.