Tuesday, 16 October, 2018

NASA to announce new astronaut class on Friday

Crew Dragon and Starliner A Look at the Coming Astronaut Taxis NASA will name 1st astronauts to fly commercial spacecraft to International Space Station
Guillermo Lane | 08 August, 2018, 20:45

The three pioneers will help restore American access to space from USA soil, a capability that ended when the shuttle was retired seven years ago.

"Today, our country's dreams of greater achievements in space are within our grasp", NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said. The space enthusiast said that, should the two Crew Dragon test flights perform well, the hardware will be ready.

Victor Glover, who graduated from Cal Poly in 1999 with a degree in engineering, is one of nine astronauts who will crew the first test flight and mission of both Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon.

This crew is made up of three astronauts: Eric Boe, who was the pilot of the space shuttle Endeavor; Chris Ferguson, who took part in the last launch; and rookie Nicole A. Mann.

Ferguson commanded the final mission of the space shuttle program, and Hurley was the pilot on that flight. Their mission will launch in mid-2019, if everything goes according to plan.

The first crewed test flight of SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule will include NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) will fly its first astronaut to ISS on a Soyuz in April 2019.

Additional crew members will be assigned by NASA's global partners at a later date.

"As a test pilot, it doesn't get any better than this", said Mann, a Naval aviator. "But you know, it looks like it might".

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.

It's been a long trip for these astronauts.

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NASA introduced the nine USA astronauts who will fly on commercial Boeing and SpaceX spacecraft on Friday.

NASA is now assigning crew members to these test missions, and will work with both companies and the Eastern range to clear launch dates that will allow all science investigations and other operations on the ISS will not be interrupted. Those were Behnken, Boe, Hurley and Williams.

NASA's deal with Russian Federation is due to run out at the end of the decade, and delays faced by SpaceX and Boeing have the firms bumping up close against deadlines.

The announcement marks an important milestone for NASA's Commercial Crew program, which has paid Boeing and SpaceX $6.8 billion since 2014.

NASA has named the astronauts who will fly the first commercial capsules into orbit next year.

For the past seven years, Nasa astronauts have hitched rides to the orbiting outpost on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft - at a cost of some US$80 million a seat. The latter as termed by IBM was touted "the first AI companion of human beings in space".

Glover, who also joined NASA in 2013, summed it up simply. "Our commitment has always been to provide NASA and those crews the highest level of mission assurance", he said in the statement. Both Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon will need to meet stringent safety requirements and prove they are fit for regular flights.

SpaceX did not give a reason for the delay of its first crewed test flight.

Those launch targets may change. While both companies had recently said they would conduct their first test flights with astronauts on board by the end of this year, those flights are now scheduled for 2019. But that changed Thursday (Aug. 2) when NASA rolled out a set of new launch targets.

Both spacecraft are now undergoing hardware tests, with final processing ahead as launch dates hover closer.

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