NASA will name 1st astronauts to fly commercial spacecraft to International Space Station2 min read

1st flights of Boeing, SpaceX ships expected in 2019. Watch LIVE at starting 11 a.m. ET
The first astronauts to fly to the International Space Station aboard privately developed and built commercial spacecraft will be announced by NASA today.

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 U.S. space agency said.

NASA will announce Friday morning the names of the first astronauts to fly to the International Space Station aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner. (NASA)

The names of the astronauts will be unveiled at a news conference at 11 a.m. ET that will be streamed live online on CBC News.

Not only will the manned test flights be the first time astronauts fly to the space station aboard commercial spacecraft, but they will also be the first launch of “American astronauts on American-made spacecraft from American soil” since NASA retired its space shuttle program in 2011, the space agency said.

Since then, astronauts have relied on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to transport them to and from the orbiting space station.

On the left, NASA astronaut Suni Williams, fully suited in SpaceX’s spacesuit, uses the display inside a mock-up of the Crew Dragon spacecraft in Hawthorne, Calif., during a testing exercise on April 3. On the right, NASA astronauts conduct a fully-suited exercise in Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner mock-up trainer in early May at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. (SpaceX/Boeing)

The first flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon is expected in April 2019, following an unmanned test in November, NASA said.

Astronauts are expected to make their first flight aboard Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner in mid-2019, following a test flight without a crew in late 2018 or early 2019.

During the manned tests, the astronauts will be able to use the displays inside the spacecraft, communicate with mission control and practise manual controls during flight. The spacecraft will dock and undock autonomously to the space station before flying their crew back to Earth.

If those flights are successful, the companies will be certified by NASA for crew rotation missions.

NASA awarded contracts to Boeing and SpaceX in 2014 worth $6.8 billion US to provide rides for its astronauts to the space station. At that time, it aimed to begin crewed flights in 2017.


Sources: • CBC
Featured Image: NASA/SPACEX

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Sebastien Clarke

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