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

NASA/Kennedy Space Center (via Flickr); Boeing; Shayanne Gal/Business InsiderAn illustration of SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft (left) and Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spacecraft (right).

The astronauts assignments will be for both the test flights of Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon, which won't dock with the ISS, as well as the first post-certification missions for both private companies, which will head to the space station. The first astronauts to fly to the International Space Station aboard privately developed and built commercial spacecraft will be announced by NASA today. NASA also said SpaceX will launch an uncrewed flight test in November, with Boeing not expected to do that until late in 2018 or in the early part of next year.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Government Accountability Office recommended NASA pursue a backup plan for getting astronauts to the ISS, as its contract with Russian Federation to send them to the station via Soyuz launches in Kazakhstan ends at the end of 2019.

NASA's Commercial Crew Program, as it's called, will soon launch launch one uncrewed and two crewed test flights of each new spacecraft.

Boeing has also rearranged its test program, pushing back a pad abort test that was scheduled for this summer, before both the uncrewed and crewed test flights, to spring 2019, after the uncrewed flight.

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. The company said it has identified the root cause of that incident and will make both operational and technical changes to ensure the valves close properly in the future.

SpaceX said it would fly crews by April. 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.

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

Last week, Boeing confirmed that it had a problem with its launch abort system, which is created to ferry crews to safety in the event of an emergency.

NASA awaits the completion of both companies' test flights before certifying either safe for use to return astronauts on low-Earth-orbit missions.

Two companies have NASA contracts to provide flights to the ISS between 2019 and 2024: SpaceX and Boeing (ba). Both SpaceX and Boeing were supposed to clear this hurdle past year, but Boeing is now likely to win certification in January, with SpaceX following it the next month.

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.

In a statement released Thursday, NASA and its Commercial Crew partners revealed more details of the effort to carry astronauts from the U.S.to the International Space Station.