NASA names crews and dates for first USA commercial missions

Terry Joseph
August 4, 2018

"NASA's Commercial Crew Program will return human spaceflight launches to US soil, providing safe, reliable and cost-effective access to low-Earth orbit on systems that meet our safety and mission requirements", said the official blog. The crews will be the first to venture into the final frontier from Florida on American-made ships since 2011. American astronauts have still traveled to space, but they've used Russia's Soyuz spacecraft at a cost of about $80 million per seat.

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.

In attendance for the announcement will be NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, Johnson Space Center Director Mark Geyer and Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana. NASA astronauts Eric Boe and Nicole Aunapu Mann are slated for the test flight of Boeing's Starliner, accompanied by former NASA astronaut Chris Ferguson, who now works as a commercial astronaut for Boeing.

Space X's Dragon will be tested by Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, and Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins will be on the crew for that mission.

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. This will be Mann's first launch, having joined the astronaut corps in 2013. He's spent almost 29 days in space. A NASA press release says more crew members may be added to those flights later.

NASA has been paying billions of dollars to SpaceX and Boeing to develop the crew capsules to pick up where the space shuttles left off in 2011, while also paying billions for cargo deliveries to the space station by SpaceX and Northrop Grumman. It now looks like SpaceX will be the first to launch humans on its crew Dragon spacecraft, set for April 2019. "Our commitment has always been to provide NASA and those crews the highest level of mission assurance", he said in the statement.

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Behnken, Hurley, Boe and Sunita Williams have been training on SpaceX's Crew Dragon and Boeing's CST-100 Starliner since July 2015.

Boeing's CST-100 Starliner will be launched from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The first tests flights are expected to take place within the next few months, into early next year.

NASA's continuous presence on the space station for nearly 18 years has enabled technology demonstrations and research in biology and biotechnology, Earth and space science, human health, physical sciences.

Both companies will also conduct abort system test flights to ensure the astronauts can safely escape should their rockets go awry.

In this illustration, a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft approaches the International Space Station for docking.

There's no guarantee that either SpaceX or Boeing will stick to the schedule announced today.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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