NASA is naming 8 astronauts to fly SpaceX and Boeing's new spaceships

Aug 04, 2018, 04:58
NASA is naming 8 astronauts to fly SpaceX and Boeing's new spaceships

The assignments will come from among a list of four astronauts who have already been training for the commercial crew program - Robert Behnken, Eric Boe, Douglas Hurley and Sunita Williams - all of whom have been on previous missions to the International Space Station.

"This is a big deal for our country, and we want America to know we're back".

NASA on Thursday said it expects SpaceX to fly its first astronauts in April of 2019 and Boeing will follow, launching astronauts into space in the middle of next year.

Following this first trial flight, two pilots will travel in the Starliner to the ISS: Suni Williams, who since he was picked to be an astronaut in 1998 has made seven space flights and has spent more than 322 days in the stratosphere, and Josh Cassada, who has yet to make his first space flight.

When approved, each company is slated for six missions to the space station between 2019 and 2024, a total of 12 missions between the two companies.

NASA has been collaborating with commercial space companies for years, with the goal of having the private sector take over "routine" trips to the space station and low Earth orbit. The unmanned test flight is scheduled for late 2018 or early 2019. He flew on Space Shuttle Endeavour in 2008 with fellow Georgia Tech graduates Sandy Magnus and Shane Kimbrough.

Astronaut Doug Hurley, who will be on the Space X test flight, hinted at the delays when he noted at Friday's Johnson Space Center announcement: "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".

Boeing's Starliner will launch aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

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.

The other four astronauts that NASA has selected, however, aren't yet publicly known.

On the first operational mission to the International Space Station, Sunita Williams and Josh Cassada would fly for Boeing. Therefore, it's essential that Crew Dragon and Starliner be ready for operational flights by the 2020 deadline.

The first flight is expected sometime next year.

"NASA is continuing to assess multiple scenarios to ensure continued US access to the International Space Station", the space agency told Bloomberg. This will be his first spaceflight.

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. Ferguson will become the first former Nasa astronaut to return to orbit as a company's crew member when he flies.

NASA's continuous presence on the space station for nearly 18 years has enabled technology demonstrations and research in biology and biotechnology, Earth and space science, human health, physical sciences. The launch window for the mission opens at 3:48 a.m EDT on August 11, 2018.

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