NASA names astronauts for Boeing, SpaceX flights

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

NASA on Friday announced the first astronauts who will fly into space on USA -made commercial spacecraft - which will be the agency's first manned missions in years.

The eight active Nasa astronauts and one former astronaut-turned-corporate crew member will launch on Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Dragoncapsules to the International Space Station beginning in 2019.

SpaceX and Boeing are shooting for a test flight of their capsules by the end of this year or early next, with the first crews flying from Cape Canaveral, Florida, by next spring or summer.

Chris Ferguson: While Ferguson has been retired from NASA since 2011, he has worked with Boeing's Starliner program for years, earning him a key post on the first crewed test of the system.

This will be the first trip into space for Mr. Glover, Mr. Cassada and Ms. Mann.

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.

With these launches the United States will recover its prominence in the space race after seven years of depending on Russian infrastructure to send its astronauts into space.

NASA said SpaceX was now aiming to conduct an uncrewed demonstration flight of its upgraded Dragon capsule in November, known as SpaceX Demo-1. "The result is that we'll have a better and safer spacecraft", he said. He joined NASA in 2000 to become an astronaut, and piloted the space shuttle Endeavor for STS-127.

In 2019, SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule and Boeing's CST-100 Starliner are both scheduled to blast off on test flights with NASA astronauts on board.

The team is split into two parts, with each group specializing in one of the spacecraft: Boeing's CST-100 Starliner or SpaceX's Dragon. That flight is now projected to lift off in April of 2019.

The nine individuals will go up on systems developed by - and contracted from - the Boeing and SpaceX firms.

"The opportunity to fly in a new vehicle is any test pilot and astronaut's dream", Mike Hopkins, an Air Force colonel who will fly aboard the Crew Dragon on its first mission, wrote on Twitter.

Ferguson commanded the final mission of the space shuttle program, and Hurley was the pilot on that flight. The other commercial crew members are still with NASA. Since then, NASA has been forced to rely exclusively on Russia's increasingly expensive Soyuz spaceships to get to the International Space Station (ISS), in which the USA government has invested about $100 billion.

The announcement is a big deal because the last American crew-carrying spacecraft - NASA's fleet of four space shuttle orbiters - retired in July 2011. The test flight with crew is scheduled for mid-2019.

SpaceX's first crew will include naval aviator Victor Glover, also a novice to spaceflight, and shuttle veteran Michael Hopkins. It will ride atop a Falcon-9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center.

The contracts for travel to the International Space Station were awarded in 2014. Boeing's and SpaceX's commercial spacecraft may also open the space station - and more broadly, Earth orbit - to more privately-funded visitors and spaceflight participants from countries that do not have their own domestic crewed spacecraft and rockets.

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