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 US space agency said.
This crew is made up of three astronauts: Eric Boe, who was the pilot of the space shuttle Endeavor; Chris Ferguson, who took part in the last launch; and rookie Nicole A. Mann.
NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will crew the SpaceX Crew Dragon test flight. It now looks like SpaceX will be the first to launch humans on its crew Dragon spacecraft, set for April 2019.
"Safely and reliably flying commercial crew missions for NASA remains the highest priority for SpaceX", Benji Reed, SpaceX's director of crew mission management, said in a statement.
Since the shuttle was retired seven years ago, American astronauts have had to fly on Russian rockets from a remote launch site in Kazakhstan.
As for being the only non-NASA guy on board, Ferguson explained later during a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" program that Boeing always uses company test pilots for first flights "and the Starliner is no exception". 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.
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Harley-Davidson also said it is developing "more accessible" offerings in the 250cc to 500cc range for the Asian market. Its first electric motorcycle will be launched next year, and more models are planned through 2022.
Bob Behnken: Behnken was chosen as an astronaut in 2000 and has been to space twice on two shuttle missions.
NASA has been paying billions of dollars to SpaceX and Boeing to develop the crew capsules to pick up where the space shuttles left off in 2011, while also paying billions for cargo deliveries to the space station by SpaceX and Northrop Grumman.
"Rockets are fun. I'll be ready, I can't wait", Williams said in an interview posted Friday on the International Space Station Facebook page.
NASA has spent billions developing the Space Launch System and its first flight, scheduled for 2020, will send an uncrewed capsule around the moon and back. Two top Navy pilots, Josh Cassada and Suni Williams, will be on a subsequent Starliner flight ― considered the craft's first mission. He will be joined by Victor Glover, a Navy commander who will be making his first trip into space.
The timetable for the launches was supposed to have been for test flights to take place before the end of 2018, but both companies have faced technical issues that may delay that into 2019.
SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said the company is targeting November for an unmanned test launch of the Crew Dragon atop a Falcon 9 rocket. Robert Behnken, Douglas Hurley, Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins will fly with SpaceX. This will be her first trip to space. 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.
Boeing's CST-100 Starliner will be launched from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.