NASA to announce which astronauts will fly on first commercial spaceships

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

NASA's new administrator Jim Bridenstine will announce which astronauts will be on which spaceship Friday morning in Houston.

The crews would fly on spacecraft developed not by NASA, but by two corporations, SpaceX and Boeing, which are under contract to provide a taxi-like service to the International Space Station.

The CST-100 test flight will also include Christopher Ferguson, a former NASA astronaut and current Boeing commercial astronaut.

The SpaceX crewed test flight, now scheduled for April 2019, will be flown by NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley.

NASA's Commercial Crew Program, as it's called, will soon launch launch one uncrewed and two crewed test flights of each new spacecraft.

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Both capsules will fly to the International Space Station on their first crewed test flights, blazing a trail for future crews to ride to and from the orbiting research complex on operational crew rotation missions, ending NASA's sole reliance on Russian Soyuz spacecraft for the job.

When approved, each company is slated for six missions to the space station between 2019 and 2024, a total of 12 missions between the two companies.

Behnken, Hurley, Boe and Mann are Nasa's first astronauts to be named to the test flights of new U.S. spacecraft since the March 1978 announcement of the space shuttle's first orbital flight test crews.

It is on the subsequent missions that the crew capsules will head to the space station and dock.

Nine astronauts were named to ride the SpaceX Dragon and Boeing Starliner capsules - five on the first crew flights and four on the second round of missions to the International Space Station.

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The announcement is a big deal because the last American crew-carrying spacecraft - NASA's fleet of four space shuttle orbiters - retired in July 2011. Boeing and Space Adventures, the USA company that arranged space tourist flights on Russian Soyuz spacecraft, have a partnership that could allow paying passengers to ride in a fifth seat on CST-100 missions for shorter-duration missions. Mann's flight with Boeing will be her first to space. Two top Navy pilots, Josh Cassada and Suni Williams, will be on a subsequent Starliner flight ― considered the craft's first mission.

Victor Glover: Glover was selected as an astronaut in 2013 after a career in the Navy as a test pilot. The first tests flights are expected to take place within the next few months, into early next year.

NASA awaits the completion of both companies' test flights before certifying either safe for use to return astronauts on low-Earth-orbit missions.

"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. 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.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft will be launched on one of the company's Falcon 9 rockets, while Boeing's Starliner will hitch a lift on United Launch Alliance's Atlas 5. SpaceX is targeting April 2019 for its crewed demonstration flight, Demo-2. Hopkins logged 166 days aboard the space station in 2014.

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