Sunita Williams among 9 astronauts to fly SpaceX, Boeing commercial-rockets
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, built and operated by The Boeing Company and SpaceX, starting next year. After years of vehicle development and building anticipation, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has now put the crew in commercial crew spacecraft. Here's more.
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First crewed launches since end of space-shuttle program in 2011
"Today, America's dreams of greater achievements in space are within our grasp," said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. Eight NASA astronauts and one former astronaut-turned-corporate crew member will launch on Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Dragon capsules to International Space Station beginning in 2019. The missions will mark the first crewed launches from US soil since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011.
Thrilling to see our astronauts lift-off from American soil: NASA-director
NASA has worked closely with the companies throughout design, development, and testing to ensure the systems meet all requirements. "The astronauts we assign to these first-flights are at the forefront of this exciting new time for human spaceflight," said Mark Geyer, Director of NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. "It will be thrilling to see our astronauts lift off from American soil," Geyer said.
Williams to fly with first-timer John Cassada in Starliner
Josh Cassada, 45, will fly with Sunita Williams, 52, aboard NASA's first contracted Starliner mission. It will be Cassada's first spaceflight. Williams previously logged 321-days in orbit on two stays aboard the space station, most recently returning to the Earth in 2012. The commercial crew members took to the stage during an event led by Bridenstine at the agency's Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Veteran astronauts Behnken, Hurley to lift-off from Kennedy Space Center
NASA astronauts Robert Behnken, 48, and Douglas Hurley, 51, will fly together as SpaceX's first Dragon crew. Veterans of two spaceflights each, Behnken and Hurley will lift off atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center's Pad 39A, the same Florida launch pad where the space shuttle left Earth for the last time in July 2011 with Hurley as the pilot.
First-timer Nicole Mann to join former astronaut Christopher Ferguson
NASA astronauts Eric Boe, 53, and Nicole Mann, 41, will join former astronaut and now Boeing executive Christopher Ferguson, 56, as the crew of the Starliner test-flight, launching atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Ferguson had flown in three shuttle missions as NASA astronaut. Boe piloted two shuttle-flights. This will be Mann's first launch.
Boeing, SpaceX to also conduct abort test flights
Prior to their maiden crewed missions, both Boeing and SpaceX planned uncrewed test flights in late 2018 or early 2019. Both companies will also conduct abort system test flights to ensure the astronauts can safely escape should their rockets go awry.
Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover, the other-pair for SpaceX's Dragon
Victor Glover, 42, and Michael Hopkins, 49, will fly on the first operational mission of SpaceX's crewed Dragon. It will be Glover's first time in space. Hopkins logged 166 days aboard the space station in 2014. In addition to these nine, NASA also announced the four astronauts who will fly aboard the first operational Starliner and Dragon missions to the space station.