NASA Assigns Crews to First Commercial Spacecraft Flights

NASA is naming 8 astronauts to fly SpaceX and Boeing's new spaceships - here's how to watch the announcement live

Nasa has named the astronauts who will fly the first missions into space on commercially provided rockets and capsules, starting next year.

The chosen astronauts will be the first to conduct flight tests and missions on the Boeing Starliner and Space X crew dragon.

In all, eight astronauts will be assigned to initial test flights and missions to the International Space Station.

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.

U.S. astronauts now ride on Russian capsules to the space station, with NASA paying as much as $82 million a seat.

(AP) In addition to naming the crews of the test flights, Nasa also announced today the four astronauts who will fly aboard the first operational Starliner and Dragon missions to the space station. If history is any guide, the crews taking the spotlight on Friday will have even more time to train. All have a military background.

The seven men and two women pumped their fists in the air and gave thumbs ups as they strode onto the stage to cheers from the crowd.

Chris Ferguson, director of Boeing's Starliner crew and mission operations, along with NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, practices the emergency egress system training at Kennedy Space Center. NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley would fly on the first human test flight of SpaceX's Dragon capsule. The cargo missions started in 2012.

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"Component degradation, manufacturers no longer in business, and changes in technologies over the past 20 years on a one-of-a-kind on-orbit spacecraft like the ISS also present the risk of hardware becoming technologically obsolete", their report says.

Last week, Boeing confirmed that it had a problem with its launch abort system, which is created to ferry crews to safety in the event of an emergency.

"The first flight is something you dream about as a test pilot", said Hurley, who flew on the last shuttle mission. "But looks like it might".

"Oh, it better, " Bridenstine chimed in.

Astronauts, from left to right, Victor Glover, Michael Hopkins, Robert Behnken, Douglas Hurley, Nicole Mann, Christopher Ferguson, Eric Boe, Josh Cassada and Sunita Williams. Josh Cassada and Suni Williams will be the second crew for the Starliner and Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins will be the second crew for the Dragon.

Boeing's CST-100 Starliner will be launched from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Dragons, meanwhile, will fly on SpaceX's own Falcon 9 rockets.

The Commercial Crew program, on the whole, has experienced numerous delays and budget shortfalls as Boeing and SpaceX work to bring crewed launches back to the U.S. "We're returning to a full-capability ascent abort system to keep astronauts safe all the way through the profile, and that's something that the shuttle didn't have". The group likened it to flying an iPhone, with a minimal number of switches compared with the 3,000 switches in the old shuttle cockpit. He flew aboard three shuttle missions, including the program's final mission in 2011. SpaceX's manned test flight will feature two NASA astronauts. Boeing is aiming for a test flight at the end of this year or early next, and the first crew flight in the middle of next year. The retired US Navy Captain piloted the Space Shuttle Atlantis in 2006.