Monday, 24 September, 2018


NASA announces crew for first commercial space flights

Starliner and Crew Dragon NASA released new schedules Aug. 2 for test flights by Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon. Credit Boeing SpaceX
Kristine Garrett | 08 August, 2018, 20:45

All nine astronauts have military experience, and most are seasoned veterans of space.

The nine individuals will go up on systems developed by - and contracted from - the Boeing and SpaceX firms. "We take it seriously".

Nasa has named the astronauts who will fly the first missions into space on commercially provided rockets and capsules, starting next year.

The first Boeing Starliner mission to the ISS will be crewed by John Cassada, a NASA astronaut, physicist and Navy test pilot. Mann will also make history as the first female astronaut on the inaugural crewed flight of a new US spacecraft. He also serves as a Navy commander, naval aviator and was a test pilot.

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. No female astronaut has logged more spacewalk time.

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.

After successful completion of the flight tests with crew, NASA will review flight data to verify that the systems meet the agency's safety and performance certification requirements and are ready to begin regular servicing missions to the space station, the U.S. space agency said. Initially, the Space X and Boeing flights will be "test flights" and flights of crew and cargo to the International Space Station.

Williams has spent 322 days in space as part of two expeditions: 14/15 and 32/33.

The space agency has reason to be eager. The spacecraft will dock and undock autonomously to the space station before flying their crew back to Earth. Behnken was selected by NASA in 2000 and served as the agency's chief astronaut between 2012 and 2015. But both partners have suffered delays that will end up totaling at least three years. Mr. Ferguson will become the first former NASA astronaut to return to orbit as a company's crew member when he flies.

The announcement can be seen on NASA TV and streamed on NASA's Facebook. Boeing believes they know what caused the problem and a fix is in the works. SpaceX is trying to fix design issues with gas vessels and cracks in its engine turbines, and it's working to ensure that its rocket fueling process-which calls for filling the rockets while astronauts are on board-is sufficiently safe.

Both spacecraft are now undergoing hardware tests, with final processing ahead as launch dates hover closer. She's no stranger to high-speed flight, however, being an F/A-18 test pilot with more than 2,500 flight hours across over 25 aircraft.

The setback means the first crewed test flight will be pushed back to the middle of 2019, he said.

The companies are running out of buffer. The Government Accountability Office, noted The Atlantic's report, doesn't agree, saying it's more likely Boeing will be certified in December of next year and SpaceX in January of 2020.

NASA, SpaceX and Boeing have repeatedly stressed that they will fly only when the vehicles are ready. "The ISS can not function without a USA presence on board to maintain and operate integral systems".

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