NASA Announces Boeing and Space Crews

Cristina Cross
August 3, 2018

The first test flights for new spacecraft designed by commercial companies in collaboration with NASA to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station from the United States are known as Demo-1 for SpaceX and Orbital Flight Test for Boeing.

If those uncrewed missions go well, Boeing and SpaceX will each follow with two crewed flights in 2019. Starliner and Crew Dragon will dock and undock autonomously to the space station before returning the crew safely home.

Boeing has also developed a state-of-the-art spacecraft, the Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 Starliner.

NASA will announce the crew assignments for the crew flight tests and the first post-certification mission for both Boeing and SpaceX.

According to Investor's Business Daily, it looks like Elon Musk's company might beat Boeing to the punch and be the first to launch its astronaut-ferrying vehicle to the ISS. SpaceX's is the Crew Dragon launched on SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets.

The agency released the revised schedule with little fanfare ahead of a planned August 3 announcement at the Johnson Space Center of the astronauts that will fly the two companies' crewed demonstration missions, as well as on the first post-certification, or operational, missions by each company.

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The company is racing to finish developing its "space taxi" so that it can ferry astronauts to the ISS for NASA, whose contract with Russian Federation to use Soyuz capsules for these flights ends in November 2019.

The event is huge because the last American spacecraft was retired in 2011 and ever since that day, NASA had to rely on Russia's Soyuz spaceships to get to the ISS (the International Space Station). "After the uncrewed flight tests, both companies will execute a flight test with crew prior to being certified by NASA for crew rotation missions".

Four of the eight astronauts will nearly certainly be Bob Behnken, Eric Boe, Doug Hurley, and Sunita "Suni" Williams. An unknown number of additional astronauts is expected to be named Friday.

NASA's Commercial Crew Program is working with the American aerospace industry as companies develop and operate a new generation of spacecraft and launch systems created to carry crews safely to and from low-Earth orbit.

Boeing develops the Starliner after NASA chose them and SpaceX to each build a spacecraft that would send humans to the ISS.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft will be fully autonomous and can be closely watched from in space or on Earth at SpaceX's mission control in Hawthorne, California. That will include training at the Johnson Space Center in Houston as well as at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Boeing has earned about $4.8 billion in government contracts and awards for its work on the program since 2010, while SpaceX has earned about $3.1 billion. The CST-100 Cockpit allows the crew to be within 60 hours.

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