Published: Tue, August 07, 2018
Research | By Jody Lindsey

NASA announces astronauts for first commercial spaceflights from U.S.

NASA announces astronauts for first commercial spaceflights from U.S.

NASA on Friday is scheduled to announce the crews of the first flights to fly from United States soil since the space shuttle retired in 2011, an elite group of astronauts that the agency hopes will help open a new era of space travel.

"What an exciting and incredible day", Jim Bridenstine, NASA's administrator, said at the announcement at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

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. - Alan Shepard, John Young are some of America's first explorers into the great unknown, but Friday NASA will announce who will be America's next space pioneers.

According to NASA website, Williams - a veteran of two space mission expeditions - is now training for the first post-certification mission of Boeing's Starliner spacecraft - the second crewed flight for that vehicle - and her third long duration mission aboard the International Space Station.

Boeing plans to do an uncrewed flight test of its CST-100 Starliner later this year or early next year. Among them are the commander and pilot of the final shuttle mission in 2011.

NASA says commercial transportation to and from the space stations will enable expanded station use, additional research time and broader opportunities of discovery aboard the orbiting laboratory.

The test flights and missions aboard Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft, slated for as early as April 2019, will "begin a new era in America spaceflight", the USA space agency said. The spacecraft will launch aboard an Atlas V rocket from the Space Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. If all goes as planned, he could make history as the first private citizen to launch to orbit on a commercially operated space craft. An astronaut of Indian origin Sunita Williams is among the nine.

The latter was confirmed by SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk himself who responded to an article regarding the tentative flight schedules on Twitter. This will be Ms. Mann's first launch, having joined the astronaut corps in 2013. Once the spacecraft is attached to the space station, it's created to stay there for 210 days. "So, our investment in American space exploration always pays back ... multiple folds in terms of the human condition", he added.

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For SpaceX's first flight to the ISS, the NASA crew will be Victor Glover on his first space flight and Mike Hopkins, who spent 166 days in space as part of Expedition 37/38. Since the last shuttle flight, NASA has relied on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to carry its astronauts to the International Space Station.

NASA seems confident these dates will hold, and that the commercial crew program is finally on the home stretch.

Boeing is now working through technical issues with its abort and parachute systems.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon will launch on the company's Falcon 9 rocket.

The first un-crewed demonstration for the spacecraft will take place sometime in November 2018 and the first flight with two astronauts on board is scheduled for April 2019.

Since 2010, that program has inched along, moving ever-closer to crewed and uncrewed test flights.

The seven men and two women will also be the first astronauts to fly in capsules developed and built by the private sector are seen in a photo released by NASA. "We won't let you down".

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