NASA is announcing which astronauts will fly on the first commercial spaceships, now scheduled for next year.
After each company successfully completes its crewed test flight, NASA will begin the final process of certifying that spacecraft and systems for regular crew missions to the space station.
"This is a big deal for our country, and we want America to know we're back".
"For the first time since 2011, we are on the brink of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said Friday, standing in front of a giant American flag at Johnson Space Center in Houston.
The manned test flight from Boeing will feature one NASA astronaut and one Boeing employee, most likely former astronaut Chris Ferguson. He will be joined by Victor Glover, a Navy commander who will be making his first trip into space. American astronauts will be flying American built rockets into space from American soil.
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.
The first flight of SpaceX's Crew Dragon is expected in April 2019, following an unmanned test in November, NASA said. Boeing said only that it would fly NASA's astronauts by the middle of next year. "This accomplished group of American astronauts, flying on new spacecraft developed by our commercial partners Boeing and SpaceX, will launch a new era of human spaceflight".
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Boeing plans to do an uncrewed flight test of its CST-100 Starliner later this year or early next year. Boeing most recently suffered a problem while testing its emergency abort system and its first test flight has been delayed until at least mid-2019. American astronauts have still traveled to space, but they've used Russia's Soyuz spacecraft at a cost of about $80 million per seat. NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley would fly on the first human test flight of SpaceX's Dragon capsule.
Ferguson, who has been involved from the start in the Starliner's development, flew three shuttle missions as a Nasa astronaut. Boe piloted two shuttle flights.
Williams has spent 322 days aboard the International Space Station since becoming an astronaut in 1998.
The unpiloted supply ship launched from Cape Canaveral on June 29 aboard a Falcon 9 rocket, and it reached the space station July 2. It will be Cassada's first spaceflight.
Victor Glover, 42, and Michael Hopkins, 49, will fly on the first operational mission of SpaceX's crewed Dragon.
Additional crew members will be assigned by NASA's global partners at a later date.
USA astronauts now take Russian capsules to the space station, with NASA paying as much as $82 million a seat. He has spent 166 days on the International Space Station for Expeditions 37/38, and conducted two spacewalks.
SpaceX later confirmed a successful splashdown, concluding the company's 15th resupply mission to the space station under the space transport company's more than $3 billion, 20-launch cargo contract with NASA. NASA picked Crew Dragon and Starliner to replace the space shuttle for ISS transportation back in 2014.