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.
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.
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.