NASA assigns astronauts to first commercial crew missions

NASA is naming 8 astronauts to fly SpaceX and Boeing's new spaceships - here's how to watch the announcement live

NASA introduced to the world on Friday the first USA astronauts who will fly on American-made, commercial spacecraft to and from the International Space Station.

On Friday, NASA announced the astronauts that will fly on the first flights of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's crewed Dragon capsule.

The Boeing crewed test flight, planned for mid-2019, will carry three people, including former NASA astronaut Chris Ferguson, commander of STS-135 and, for the last several years, a Boeing employee working on the Starliner program.

NASA has been paying billions of dollars to SpaceX and Boeing to develop the crew capsules to pick up where the shuttles left off, while also paying billions for cargo deliveries to the space station by SpaceX and Northrop Grumman.

"The first flight is something you dream about as a test pilot", said Hurley, who flew on the last shuttle mission. However, a NASA spokesman said that does not guarantee those four astronauts will be assigned to an actual mission. 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.

Nine astronauts have new travel plans aboard commercial space capsules, with their mission assignments announced earlier today (Aug. 3).

Bob Behnken: Behnken was chosen as an astronaut in 2000 and has been to space twice on two shuttle missions.

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SpaceX and Boeing built new spaceships for NASA to fly its astronauts into orbit. The Crew Dragon spacecraft will launch from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. Boeing and Space Adventures, the USA 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.

NASA has just updated its schedule for commercial crew.

Four of the eight astronauts will nearly certainly be Bob Behnken, Eric Boe, Doug Hurley, and Sunita "Suni" Williams.

On the first operational mission to the International Space Station, Sunita Williams and Josh Cassada would fly for Boeing. This will be Mann's first launch, having joined the astronaut corps in 2013. Boeing is aiming for a test flight at the end of this year or early next, and the first crew flight in the middle of next year.

SpaceX did not give a reason for the delay of its first crewed test flight. He is a colonel in the Air Force, where he was a flight test engineer before being selected as a NASA astronaut in 2009. Josh Cassada and Suni Williams will be the second crew for the Starliner and Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins will be the second crew for the Dragon. This will be her first trip to space. "This accomplished group of American astronauts, flying on new spacecraft developed by our commercial partners Boeing and SpaceX, will launch a new era of human spaceflight".

The Starliner will launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla., aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, and the Dragon will launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center about 10 miles away. "The person who could do a spacewalk, do some robotics, had a test background if that was required for the mission at hand, and so really looking for a crew member that touches all those bases was really critical going forward", Behnken said.

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