NASA names astronauts for Boeing, SpaceX flights

Cesar Mills
August 6, 2018

Each ship requires two crewed test launches before NASA will certify it for routine flight.

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.

This will be the first space shuttle launches from the United States since it retired its space shuttle in 2011.

Top row, left to right: NASA Astronauts Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins; bottom row, left to right: NASA Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.

The space agency announced yesterday that the nine astronauts will launch on the first crewed test flights and missions of new commercial spacecraft built and operated by The Boeing Company and SpaceX.

NASA assigned nine astronauts to crew the first test flight and mission of both Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon.

SpaceX's first crew tests on the Dragon capsule will be helmed by shuttle veterans Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley. He will be joined by Victor Glover, a Navy commander who will be making his first trip into space.

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"The station is critical for NASA to understand and overcome the challenges of long-duration spaceflight", a NASA news release said, "and necessary for a sustainable presence on the Moon and missions deeper into the solar system, including Mars". With NASA as the anchor customer, Boeing's Starliner is setting the foundation for commercial passenger flights to and from low-Earth orbit destinations, to include global astronauts, scientists and even tourists.

The manned test flight from Boeing will feature one NASA astronaut and one Boeing employee, most likely former astronaut Chris Ferguson.

The astronauts named today (see the full list below) are tasked with those missions, all four of which are slated to happen sometime in 2019. He is a retired Navy captain, who piloted space shuttle Atlantis for STS-115, and commanded shuttle Endeavour on STS-126 and Atlantis for the final flight of the Space Shuttle Program, STS-135. Boeing said earlier this week it would carry out a test flight of the Starliner vehicle without humans later this year or in early 2019, after it suffered an issue with the capsule's launch abort system during a test in New Mexico in June, according to SpaceNews. She's no stranger to high-speed flight, however, being an F/A-18 test pilot with more than 2,500 flight hours across over 25 aircraft.

"As a test pilot it doesn't get any better than this", Mann told the audience, when asked about being the first to fly a new spacecraft. For the last seven years, we've been forced to essentially hitchhike, catch a ride with the Russians on Russian rockets. Each company will also conduct an unscrewed test mission prior to the test flights. "After the uncrewed flight tests, both companies will execute a flight test with crew prior to being certified by NASA for crew rotation missions", said a NASA blog. Target dates have not yet been determined, but if no major problems crop up, SpaceX may be ready to fly by the April timeframe with Boeing following suit a month or so later.

Boeing and SpaceX, though, seem keenly aware of the white-hot spotlight on the program and on America's future in low-Earth orbit. "We won't let you down".

"Thanks to the American public for your patience [and] your dedication for allowing us to finish the job", said Shotwell.

Other reports by GizPress

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