NASA Announces Crew For First Commercial Space Flights

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NASA on Friday assigned the astronauts who will ride the first commercial capsules into orbit next year and bring crew launches back to the U.S. Cassada is a rookie astronaut selected in 2013, while Williams, the fourth astronaut selected for commercial crew training, has spent 322 days in space on two long-duration station missions.

Ferguson, who has been involved from the start in the Starliner's development, flew three shuttle missions as a Nasa astronaut. Boe piloted two shuttle flights. In a statement, the agency said that additional crew members for those first post-certification missions "will be assigned by NASA's worldwide partners at a later date".

All the astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) have been taken there on Russian Soyuz spacecraft since the retirement of the American shuttle in 2011.

NASA will announce the astronauts for the first test flights and missions of the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft Friday.

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

Meanwhile, the U.S. Government Accountability Office recommended NASA pursue a backup plan for getting astronauts to the ISS, as its contract with Russian Federation to send them to the station via Soyuz launches in Kazakhstan ends at the end of 2019.

In this illustration, a Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is shown in low-Earth orbit. 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.

Assignments for the crew flight tests and the first post-certification missions will be revealed during an event that kicks off at 11 a.m. EDT at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. John Mulholland, vice president and program manager for Boeing's Commercial Crew effort, explained that the earliest the company can "confidently" do a manned flight test will be in mid-2019.

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"What we see now is a much great emphasis on safety", Ferguson said, regarding differences between the shuttle program.

After years of vehicle development and building anticipation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) has now put the crew in commercial crew spacecraft. The ULA Atlas V dual engine Centaur that will launch the spacecraft will be shipped to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station this month.

SpaceX said it would fly crews by April. Dragons, meanwhile, will fly on SpaceX's own Falcon 9 rockets.

United Launch Alliance is also involved in the forthcoming launch of NASA's Parker Solar Probe. The race to get astronauts to the space station first is real; a USA flag that flew on the first space shuttle flight in 1981 and the last shuttle flight in 2011, awaits the victor. The launch window for the mission opens at 3:48 a.m EDT on August 11, 2018.

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