Published: Sat, August 04, 2018
Research | By Francis Brooks

NASA names astronauts for first manned US space launches since 2011

NASA names astronauts for first manned US space launches since 2011

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 US space agency said.

NASA on Friday announced the crews of the first flights from US soil since the space shuttle retired in 2011, an elite group of astronauts that the agency hopes will help open a new era of space travel.

After the Starliner goes for its test flight, Williams will be one of two crew members who ride it for its first mission to the International Space Station, according to NASA.

Boeing test pilot Chris Ferguson, who commanded NASA's last space shuttle mission in 2011, appears to be a sure thing for the first Starliner crew, based on advance reports.

When test flights do launch, Boeing's flight is dubbed Orbital Flight Test followed by Crew Flight Test. SpaceX's first flight is dubbed Demonstration Mission 1 followed by Demonstration Mission 2.

Astronaut Doug Hurley, who will be on the first crew of the SpaceX Dragon, hinted at the delays when he noted, "The first flight is something you dream about as a test pilot, and you don't think it's ever going to happen to you".

On the left, NASA astronaut Suni Williams, fully suited in SpaceX's spacesuit, uses the display inside a mock-up of the Crew Dragon spacecraft in Hawthorne, Calif., during a testing exercise on April 3.

With these launches the United States will recover its prominence in the space race after seven years of depending on Russian infrastructure to send its astronauts into space. He was selected as an astronaut in 2000 and piloted space shuttle Endeavour for the STS-126 mission and Discovery on its final flight, STS-133.

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She once held the record for total number of spacewalks conducted by a woman (7 walks) and most spacewalk time for a female (50 hours, 40 minutes) during her time on the International Space Station.

And astronauts will fly on Boeing's CST-100 Starliner sometime after that, in the middle of 2019.

If those flights are successful, the companies will be certified by NASA for crew rotation missions. The other commercial crew members are still with NASA.

The first Starliner post-certification mission, yet to be formally scheduled, will fly NASA astronauts Josh Cassada and Sunita Williams. The unmanned test flight is scheduled for late 2018 or early 2019. "Each test flight will provide data on the performance of the rockets, spacecraft, ground systems, and operations to ensure the systems are safe to fly astronauts", explained NASA in the statement.

SpaceX's Post-Certification Mission for the Crew Dragon Team Victor Glover (left) and Mike Hopkins (right). Sometimes called the "Commercial Crew Cadre", those astronauts are seasoned veterans who've worked closely with Boeing and SpaceX on their new spacecraft and systems over the past three years.

She made headlines in 2007 for being the first person to run a full marathon in space.

The Starliner will launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla., aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, and the Dragon will launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center about 10 miles away. Hopkins logged 166 days aboard the space station in 2014.

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