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NASA announces crew for first commercial space flights

NASA announces crew for first commercial space flights

The SpaceX crewed test flight, now scheduled for April 2019, will be flown by NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley.

The new spaceflight capability provided by Boeing and SpaceX will allow NASA to maintain a crew of seven astronauts on the space station, thereby maximizing scientific research that leads to breakthroughs and also aids in understanding and mitigating the challenges of long-duration spaceflight. NASA also said SpaceX will launch an uncrewed flight test in November, with Boeing not expected to do that until late in 2018 or in the early part of next year. "Today's announcement advances our great American vision and strengthens the nation's leadership in space".

The space agency selected eight of its finest active astronauts, plus one retired astronaut, from a wide array of backgrounds. NASA's last space shuttle mission, the STS-135 flight coincidently commanded by Boeing's Ferguson, flew in July 2011.

US astronauts now take Russian capsules to the space station, with NASA paying tens of millions of dollars per seat.

Crewed test flights of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon are targeted to launch in 2019.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon will launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 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. Once they receive the certification, NASA expects the companies to launch as many as six crews to the International Space Station.

This will be the first space shuttle launches from the United States since it retired its space shuttle in 2011. Mr. Ferguson will become the first former NASA astronaut to return to orbit as a company's crew member when he flies.

He'll be joined by Christoner Ferguson, a retired Navy captain.

On the first operational mission to the International Space Station, Sunita Williams and Josh Cassada would fly for Boeing.

Since the space shuttle program was shut down, the USA space agency has had to rely on Russian Federation to fly astronauts to the space station, a $100-billion orbital research laboratory that flies about 402 kilometers above Earth.

The announcement signals a milestone in the U.S. space program, with its shift to the private sector for ferrying cargo and astronauts to the International Space Station.

"The first flight is something you dream about as a test pilot, and you don't think it's ever going to happen to you", Doug Hurley said.

Hopkins had previously spent 166 days on the International Space Station, and conducted two spacewalks.

In a ceremony at the Johnson Space Center here, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine stood on a stage with a massive American flag, and introduced the crews, one-by-one, as they came on stage in distinct groups: one for SpaceX, the other Boeing. That is why in 2010 NASA started accepting proposals from commercial companies that were making astronaut transportation systems. "I look forward, sir, to getting you down there at some point out in Hawthorne [SpaceX's California headquarters] and maybe you can sit next to us in the cockpit and go through flying the iPhone to dock to space station".

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