Published: Sat, August 04, 2018
Research | By Raquel Erickson

NASA Taps Astronauts for Commercial Flights

NASA Taps Astronauts for Commercial Flights

The next class of NASA astronauts was announced Friday, and they will be the first to man space vehicles owned by commercial companies. SpaceX is targeting November 2018 for Crew Dragon's first uncrewed demonstration mission (Demo-1), three months later than the previous schedule released by NASA early this year. That is why in 2010 NASA started accepting proposals from commercial companies that were making astronaut transportation systems. Boe, Ferguson, and Nicole Aunapu Mann, a spaceflight rookie, will fly aboard Starliner sometime in mid-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.

"Today, our country's dreams of greater achievements in space are within our grasp", said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

The assignments will come from among a list of four astronauts who have already been training for the commercial crew program - Robert Behnken, Eric Boe, Douglas Hurley and Sunita Williams - all of whom have been on previous missions to the International Space Station. She has spent a grand total of 322 days in space including a stint commanding the space station and performing seven spacewalks.

The space agency has partnered with Boeing and SpaceX to develop the Starliner spacecraft to launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket and the Crew Dragon launching atop the Falcon 9 rocket, respectively.

The return of crew flights to USA soil will end NASA's politically inconvenient reliance on Russian Federation for transporting astronauts to the ISS.

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will crew the SpaceX Crew Dragon test flight.


In all, eight astronauts will be assigned to initial test flights and missions to the International Space Station.

In a recent report, the Government Accountability Office said that further delays in NASA's so-called "Commercial Crew" program could "disrupt access to" the space station, which would be an enormous embarrassment for NASA after investing about $100 billion to build and operate it.

SpaceX's first crew will include naval aviator Victor Glover, also a novice to spaceflight, and shuttle veteran Michael Hopkins. Josh Cassada and Suni Williams will be the second crew for the Starliner and Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins will be the second crew for the Dragon.

"It's absolutely an opportunity of a lifetime", said Mann, who was selected as an astronaut in 2013. He was a test pilot and colonel in the Marine Corps before coming to NASA in 2000 to become an astronaut.

The contracts for travel to the International Space Station were awarded in 2014. "I look forward, sir, to getting you down there at some point out in Hawthorne [SpaceX's California headquarters] and maybe you can sit next to us in the cockpit and go through flying the iPhone to dock to space station".

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