Astronauts picked for SpaceX, Boeing capsule test flights

Astronauts picked for SpaceX, Boeing capsule test flights

No NASA astronaut has rocketed into space from American soil since July 8, 2011, when the space shuttle Atlantis took off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, laden with 28,000 pounds of supplies for the International Space Station.

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.

Behnken, Hurley, Boe and Mann are NASA's first astronauts to be named to the test flights of new United States spacecraft since the March 1978 announcement of the space shuttle's first orbital flight test crews. Additional crew members will be assigned by NASA's worldwide partners in the space station at a later date, the agency said.

NASA today laid out a newly stretched-out schedule for flying astronauts to the International Space Station from US soil, with SpaceX's first such flight set for no earlier than next April.

"This is a big deal for our country and we want America to know that we are back, that we are flying American astronauts on American rockets from American soil", NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said as he unveiled the crew members in Houston, Texas. The competition asked private spaceflight companies to develop new astronaut-ready spacecraft - and Boeing and SpaceX emerged as top winners. "Today's announcement advances our great American vision and strengthens the nation's leadership in space", he added.

Boeing and Space-X, NASA's Commercial Crew program partners, have pushed back the target launch dates for the first major test flights of their respective passenger spacecraft.

American astronauts haven't launched from the US since 2011, and the first commercial company to make that happen first will undoubtedly receive accolades.

The nine astronauts, most with previous experience in orbit, will ride the SpaceX Dragon and Boeing Starliner capsules to the International Space Station.

The new SpaceX and Boeing launch and entry spacesuits are displayed as NASA announces the crew assignments for the first flight tests missions of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston Texa

"Once you get into the spacecraft, you're on your way, you've got a mission, you're focused, and it's really exciting", she said.

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will crew the SpaceX Crew Dragon test flight.

The first mission astronauts include Josh Cassada, a former Navy commander and test pilot, who has been an astronaut since 2013 and Sunita Williams, also a Navy test pilot who became an astronaut in 1998.

The two pairs of NASA crewmates will fly to the station with Russian cosmonauts and global astronauts to be announced at a later date.

3 the assignment of eight agency astronauts, a mix of veterans and rookies, as well as one company astronaut to fly on the first set of commercial crew missions by Boeing and SpaceX. "The first flight is something you dream about as a test pilot", Hurley said.

The commander on the historic last shuttle mission, Chris Ferguson, is now a Boeing employee and has been heavily involved in developing the company's CST-100 Starliner capsule. Just as in the past, all human launches will originate here on the space coast.

"Completion of the core stage forward skirt is a major step in NASA's progress to the launch pad", said Deborah Bagdigian, lead manager for the forward skirt at the agency's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. 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. Dragons, meanwhile, will fly on SpaceX's own Falcon 9 rockets.

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