NASA announces crew who will fly first commercial rockets into space

Here's Why Boeing Used an Inflatable Spaceship to Test'Starliner Landing Recovery Plans

NASA introduces the astronauts assigned to the first flights of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft. "To meet NASA's requirements, the commercial providers must demonstrate that their systems are ready to begin regular flights to the space station".

NASA announced on Friday the astronauts who will crew the Boeing and SpaceX spacecraft, the first time Americans will return to space in hopes of reaching the International Space Station from Florida's Space Coast since 2011. NASA astronaut Bob Behnken, an experienced spacewalker who flew on two shuttle missions, will strap into the Crew Dragon alongside former shuttle pilot Doug Hurley.

Ferguson, now a Boeing employee, will be joined by veteran shuttle pilot Eric Boe and rookie astronaut Nicole Mann on the CST-100's Crew Test Flight, scheduled for liftoff in 2019.

Leading up to the a ceremony at the Johnson Space Center here, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said it was a historic moment for the space agency, saying: "We are going to launch American astronauts from American soil".

The Government Accountability Office said last month that launch plans could be delayed due to incomplete safety measures and accountability issues in NASA's commercial crew program.

The crews would fly on spacecraft developed not by NASA, but by two corporations, SpaceX and Boeing, which are under contract to provide a taxi-like service to the International Space Station. The probe, which will travel directly into the Sun's atmosphere, will blast off aboard a ULA Delta IV Heavy rocket from Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

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NASA's Commercial Crew Program, as it's called, will soon launch launch one uncrewed and two crewed test flights of each new spacecraft.

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.

Both companies will also conduct abort system test flights to ensure the astronauts can safely escape should their rockets go awry. Ferguson will become the first former Nasa astronaut to return to orbit as a company's crew member when he flies. "We had our quarterly [review] this week, and for the first time in years, it felt real". Hopkins logged 166 days aboard the space station in 2014.

NASA TV is broadcasting video of the announcement live from Texas.

When test flights do launch, Boeing's flight is dubbed Orbital Flight Test followed by Crew Flight Test. SpaceX's first flight is dubbed Demonstration Mission 1 followed by Demonstration Mission 2. What is not known is who gets to fly on which company's spacecraft, and on which flight they get to launch. The cargo missions started in 2012. 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.

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