Astronauts picked for SpaceX, Boeing capsule test flights
04 August, 2018, 01:47 | Author: Sam Montgomery
The test flights and missions aboard Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft, slated for as early as April 2019, will "begin a new era in America spaceflight", the USA space agency said.
NASA on Friday named nine astronauts for the first manned space launches from USA soil since the space shuttle program ended in 2011.
Crewed test flights will likely occur next spring, with Chris Ferguson, a Boeing vice president who was the commander of the last shuttle mission, Eric Boe, a former shuttle pilot, and Nicole Aunapu Mann, a former Navy pilot who will be making her first space flight, onboard the Boeing CST-100 Starliner.
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.
Astronaut Doug Hurley, who will be on the first crew of the SpaceX Dragon, hinted at the delays when he noted, "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".
Since the shuttle was retired seven years ago, USA astronauts have had to fly on Russian rockets from a remote launch site in Kazakhstan. He flew aboard three shuttle missions, including the program's final mission in 2011. 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.
Bridenstine also introduced the crews of the first missions to the International Space Station by each new craft, which will follow the test flights.
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. The Crew Dragon spacecraft will launch from Launch Complex 39A at NASA'sKennedy Space Center.
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The team is split into two parts, with each group specializing in one of the spacecraft: Boeing's CST-100 Starliner or SpaceX's Dragon.
The Government Accountability Office said last month that launch plans could be delayed due to incomplete safety measures and accountability issues in NASA'scommercial crew program.
The first Boeing trip to the orbiting outpost includes Josh Cassada, who has never been in space before, and Suni Williams, who is one of the most experienced American astronauts in history, having spent a cumulative 321 days in orbit through her career.
"It's absolutely an opportunity of a lifetime", said Mann, who was selected as an astronaut in 2013.
Commercial space taxis offer an ostensibly cheaper, made-in-America option for NASA.
During the manned tests, the astronauts will be able to use the displays inside the spacecraft, communicate with mission control and practise manual controls during flight. Robert Behnken, Douglas Hurley, Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins will fly with SpaceX.
The SpaceX Dragon capsule, on current timelines, is set to make its maiden crewed flight in April. It will be Glover's first time in space.
The Starliner will launch aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Hopkins logged 166 days aboard the space station in 2014.
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