NASA assigns astronauts to first commercial crew missions

In this illustration a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft approaches the International Space Station for docking

American astronaut Sunita Williams has been named among nine astronauts who will fly to the International Space Station on the first U.S-made commercial spacecraft.

The astronauts will fly into space on Boeing and Space X vehicles in 2019, making it NASA's first human spaceflight program since the retirement of space shuttle in 2011.

"This is a big deal for our country, and we want Americans to know that we are back", NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said Friday.

In 2019, SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule and Boeing's CST-100 Starliner are both scheduled to blast off on test flights with NASA astronauts on board.

"To work and live in space is just a humbling and fantastic blessing in and of itself, and now to have the opportunity to work with these great companies on something that is so important to our nation and to NASA", Glover said.

According to NASA website, Williams - a veteran of two space mission expeditions - is now training for the first post-certification mission of Boeing's Starliner spacecraft - the second crewed flight for that vehicle - and her third long duration mission aboard the International Space Station. Williams will be in the second crew in the Boeing Starliner, which will take them to the ISS. He flew aboard three shuttle missions, including the program's final mission in 2011.

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The agency said more crew members will be announced later.

Assignments for the crew flight tests and the first post-certification missions will be revealed during an event that kicks off at 11 a.m. EDT at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. "To meet NASA's requirements, the commercial providers must demonstrate that their systems are ready to begin regular flights to the space station".

Once the first crewed test flights are complete, two more crews will fly on Crew Dragon and Starliner for long-duration missions to the space station. The spacecraft will launch aboard an Atlas V rocket from the Space Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The test flight with crew is scheduled for mid-2019. Boe was selected by NASA to be an astronaut in 2000. Ms. Williams previously logged 321 days in orbit on two stays aboard the space station, most recently returning to the Earth in 2012.

The others are four-time space shuttle commander Robert L.

The first SpaceX mission to the ISS will be manned by Victor Glover, another newbie, and Mike Hopkins, who has already spent 166 days on the sky-high lab during two tours of duty.

Team Boeing consists of retired Air Force Col.

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NASA has named the crew of astronauts tasked with reviving America's prowess in extraterrestrial travel.

The first crewed flights will only spend a short period of time in orbit before coming back to Earth.

NASA's continuous presence on the space station for nearly 18 years has enabled technology demonstrations and research in biology and biotechnology, Earth and space science, human health, physical sciences. Dragons, meanwhile, will fly on SpaceX's own Falcon 9 rockets.

Boeing is now working through technical issues with its abort and parachute systems. The public-private partnerships fostered by the program will stimulate growth in a robust commercial space industry and spark life-changing innovations for future generations. "We won't let you down".

The program's core goals are to get an American-made ships able reach the International Space Station (ISS), plus reduce or eliminate U.S. reliance on Russia's ever-more-expensive Soyuz spaceships to get there.

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