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NASA names nine “American hero” astronauts for SpaceX, Boeing missions

From left to right: Suni Williams, Josh Cassada, Eric Boe, Nicole Mann, Chris Ferguson, Doug Hurley, Bob Behnken, Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover (NASA)

NASA has announced the nine astronauts who the crew of the test flights and the first missions of the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft.

The crew for the Starliner test flight of the NASA astronauts Eric Boe and Nicole Aunapu-Mann and Boeing-astronaut Chris Ferguson. NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are selected to take part in the Crew Dragon test flight.

The first Boeing mission to the International space station will be manned by NASA astronauts Josh Cassada and Suni Williams. The first SpaceX mission to the ISS will be manned by NASA astronauts, Victor Glover, and Mike Hopkins.

A big hello from all nine of our @Commercial_Crew astronauts! Learn more about their missions to fly on @BoeingSpace & @SpaceX spacecraft and how this will be the return of the human launches to U.s. soil for the first time since 2011: https://t.co/9yrKIbvG6r pic.twitter.com/RVM4tK9cKo

— NASA (@NASA) August 3, 2018

“This is the stuff of dreams,” said Glover, during an event at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston Friday.

“Having a chance to introduce you to these American heroes is unique,” says NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

In this illustration, a Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is shown in a low orbit around the Earth. (Photo credit: Boeing)

“This is just the beginning of dangerous missions that this country is embarking upon,” said Mark Geyer, director of the Johnson Space Center, during the event. “It is an exciting time for human spaceflight and an exciting time for our nation.”

The space agency is working with Boeing and SpaceX for the development of the Starliner spacecraft to launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, and the Crew Dragon launch from the top of the Falcon 9 rocket, respectively.

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In a statement Thursday, NASA and its Commercial Crew partners revealed more details of the effort to carry astronauts from the united states to the International Space Station. Since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011, the U.S. has been relying on the Russian Soyuz rockets launched from Kazakhstan, to get astronauts to the ISS.

In this illustration, a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft approaches the International Space Station docking. (Photo credit: NASA/SpaceX)

Boeing is planning for an uncrewed flight test of the CST-100 Starliner later this year or early next year. John Mulholland, vice president and program manager for Boeing’s Commercial Crew effort, explained that the earliest the company can provide “full trust” to do a crewed flight test will be in mid-2019. “Our commitment has always been to NASA and the crew the highest level of mission assurance,” he said in the statement.

“SpaceX is targeting November 2018 for the Crew Dragon’s first demonstration mission and April 2019 for the Crew of the Dragon’s second demo mission, which will carry two NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station,” said Benji Reed, director of the Crew of Mission Management at SpaceX, in the statement.

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The first test flight for SpaceX, Boeing will be known as Demo-1, and Orbital Flight Test, respectively. “Each test flight will provide data on the performance of the rockets, spacecraft, ground systems, and operations to ensure that the systems are safe to fly astronauts,” said NASA in the statement.

The crew for each flight will have at least one flight commander and pilot.

Boeing CST-100 Starliner will be launched from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The Crew Dragon spacecraft will launch from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center.

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The Starliner spacecraft is equipped on the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at nasa’s Kennedy Space Center, according to NASA. The ULA Atlas V dual engine Centaur will launch the spacecraft will be shipped to the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station this month.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon, which will be used for Demo-1 arrived at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in July. “Falcon 9 first and second stage for the Demo-1 mission are directed to the ship of SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California, the company’s rocket testing facility in McGregor, Texas for additional testing in August,” NASA said.

United Launch Alliance is also involved in the upcoming launch of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe. The probe, which will travel directly into the sun’s atmosphere, will blast off aboard a ULA Delta IV Heavy rocket from Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The launch window for the mission opens at 3:48.m EDT on Aug. 11, 2018.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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