NASA names astronauts for first commercial space flights

  • NASA names astronauts for first commercial space flights

NASA names astronauts for first commercial space flights

NASA on Friday named four crews of astronauts that it says will begin "a new era in American spaceflight" by flying the first commercial spaceships, built by Boeing and SpaceX, in a series of test launches. Boeing's Ferguson was pilot on STS-116 on board Space Shuttle Atlantis as well as commander of STS-126 on Space Shuttle Endeavour and the final flight of the space shuttle program, STS-135 on board Atlantis.

He said the announcement advances "our great American vision" and strengthens America's leadership in space.

The astronauts assigned to crew the first flight tests and missions of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon give a thumbs-up upon introduction at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, Aug. 3, 2018.

Boeing plans to do an uncrewed flight test of its CST-100 Starliner later this year or early next year.

"The first flight is something you dream about as a test pilot", said Hurley, who flew on the last shuttle mission. Once they receive the certification, NASA expects the companies to launch as many as six crews to the International Space Station.

Some background: The last time humans went to space from the USA was July 2011, aboard the space shuttle Atlantis.

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.

NASA has chosen Northeast Philly native and Drexel grad Chris Ferguson to lead crew members on a first-of-its-kind journey to the International Space Station next year. SpaceX has leased NASA's historic Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Cape Canaveral, Florida to launch Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets.

"Rockets are fun. I'll be ready, I can't wait", Williams said in an interview posted Friday on the International Space Station Facebook page.

The vessels, the SpaceX Dragon and Boeing Starliner, have been developed with billions of dollars in funding from NASA, which has contracted SpaceX and Northrop Grumman to make cargo deliveries to the space station since 2012.

The latter was confirmed by SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk himself who responded to an article regarding the tentative flight schedules on Twitter.

Victor Glover: Glover was selected as an astronaut in 2013 after a career in the Navy as a test pilot. Once the spacecraft is attached to the space station, it's created to stay there for 210 days.

SpaceX is gearing up to send humans into space for the first time.

The first SpaceX mission to the ISS will be manned by Victor Glover, another newbie, and Mike Hopkins, who has already spent 166 days on the sky-high lab during two tours of duty. That is why in 2010 NASA started accepting proposals from commercial companies that were making astronaut transportation systems. Last week, the agency announced it expects SpaceX to complete an uncrewed test flight in November 2018, followed by a crewed flight in April 2019.

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.

"The 7,000 women and men of SpaceX understand what a sacred honor it was for us to be part of this program and for us to fly you", Shotwell told the astronaut crews. "We're not going to let you down".