NASA reveals crews for first flights of commercial spaceships

Boeing Test Flights Delayed Again: The CST-100 Starliner Might Be Tested Next Year

"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.

The crew for the SpaceX Crew Dragon test flight, which may end up being the first to launch, features two NASA astronauts: Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.

The space agency selected eight of its finest active astronauts, plus one retired astronaut, from a wide array of backgrounds.

Seven men and four women will be go into orbit on crew capsules built by Boeing and SpaceX. "Thank you very much-we take it seriously, and we won't let you down".

Indian-origin US astronaut Sunita Williams is among the nine astronauts named by NASA who will fly the first missions into space on commercially provided rockets and capsules, starting next year.

Sunita Williams, a veteran astronaut with roots in Needham, is going back into space. He flew aboard three shuttle missions, including the program's final mission in 2011. Using American-made spacecrafts and launching from the United States soil is a more affordable option for the US. He also serves as a Navy commander, naval aviator and was a test pilot. Both vehicles were developed in cooperation with NASA to deliver crew members to and from the orbiting laboratory. Boeing and Space Adventures, the USA 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.

Since 2011, the United States has relied on Russian Federation to ferry astronauts to the space station. He has spent 166 days on the International Space Station for Expeditions 37/38, and conducted two spacewalks.

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.

"We are confident we identified the root cause and are implementing corrective actions now", said vice president and program manager of Boeing's commercial crew program John Mulholland, indicating that "minor design changes" are under way.

The space agency has reason to be eager.

The Starliner spacecraft is being outfitted at the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center, according to NASA. Behnken was selected by NASA in 2000 and served as the agency's chief astronaut between 2012 and 2015.

The hope is that the new crew pods will be certified before NASA's contract with Russian Federation expires, so that US astronauts will continue to have a ride to work.

Delays are normal, especially when trying to make spacecraft safe and reliable, but the companies' rosy projections despite expected snafus have drawn criticism.

NASA says that its astronauts will be joined by other global crew members, to be announced later on. Boeing believes they know what caused the problem and a fix is in the works. 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.

Nicole Aunapu Mann - Lieutenant Colonel in the Marine Corps, a test pilot with more than 2,500 flight hours in over 25 aircraft, soon to embark on her first spaceflight.

The companies are running out of buffer. The Government Accountability Office warned last month that it's likely the firms won't receive full certification until a month or two after the end of the Soyuz flights.

NASA agreed to provide transportation for Canadian, Japanese and European astronauts as part of the IGA. While few believed that was realistic, today's official change underscores that a potential gap in USA access to ISS is looming.



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