NASA reveals crews for first flights of commercial spaceships

In light of Boeing's schedule adjustment, will that crew arrive on a Starliner or on SpaceX's Dragon spaceship?

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. The Crew Dragon spacecraft will launch from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. Both Boeing and SpaceX have issues to work out before they can complete their first crewed flights; the 2019 dates are targets and may be optimistic ones at that.

Boeing has also rearranged its test program, pushing back a pad abort test that was scheduled for this summer, before both the uncrewed and crewed test flights, to spring 2019, after the uncrewed flight.

NASA's partners on the International Space Station program - the Russian space agency Roscosmos, the European Space Agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency - are expected to assign members of their own astronaut corps to the CST-100 and Crew Dragon crew rotation flights. While both companies had recently said they would fly their first test flights with astronauts on board by the end of this year, those flights are now scheduled for 2019. Boeing and Space Adventures, the US company that arranged space tourist flights on Russian Soyuz spacecraft, have a partnership that could allow paying passengers to ride in a fifth seat on CST-100 missions for shorter-duration missions.

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Boeing has already identified the problems, and "our team is off fixing those problems", Mulholland said. That modification is meant to "optimize the program flow", said John Mulholland, Boeing vice president and commercial crew program manager, noting that the abort system is not needed for the uncrewed flight test.

SpaceX carried out a pad abort test of its Crew Dragon vehicle in May 2015.

After a seven-year hiatus, American astronauts will once again go to space from the U.S. A July 11 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office noted that NASA's internal projections offered a "zero percent chance" the companies would be certified for routine ISS missions in early 2019, as official schedules at the time expected. "Each test flight will provide data on the performance of the rockets, spacecraft, ground systems, and operations to ensure the systems are safe to fly astronauts", explained NASA in the statement. Both SpaceX and Boeing were supposed to clear this hurdle previous year, but Boeing is now likely to win certification in January, with SpaceX following it the next month.

In a ceremony at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, the space agency revealed nine astronauts assigned to the first four crewed flights of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsules. "If NASA does not develop options for ensuring access to the ISS in the event of further Commercial Crew delays, it will not be able to ensure that the US policy goal and objective for the ISS will be met", the report argued.


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