NASA set to announce astronauts for SpaceX, Boeing missions

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Of the nine astronauts tapped to serve as crew members, all but three are space flight veterans.

On Friday, they revealed the crew members who will be carrying out the Space agency's first commercial flights. In a statement, the agency said that additional crew members for those first post-certification missions "will be assigned by NASA's worldwide partners at a later date".

Both Boeing and SpaceX have issues to work out before they can complete their first crewed flights; the 2019 dates are targets and may be optimistic ones at that. The Crew Dragon spacecraft will launch from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center.

The first Starliner post-certification mission, yet to be formally scheduled, will fly NASA astronauts Josh Cassada and Sunita Williams.

NASA is about to name the first astronauts ever to fly commercial spaceships.

The astronauts assigned to crew the first flight tests and missions of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon acknowledge the media upon introduction at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, U.S., August 3, 2018. The race to get astronauts to the space station first is real; a USA flag that flew on the first space shuttle flight in 1981 and the last shuttle flight in 2011, awaits the victor.

The announcement is a big deal because the last American crew-carrying spacecraft - NASA's fleet of four space shuttle orbiters - retired in July 2011.

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Last week, Boeing confirmed that it had a problem with its launch abort system, which is created to ferry crews to safety in the event of an emergency. NASA had originally expected the companies to have their spacecraft ready for missions to the International Space Station by the end of a year ago, but neither were able to meet that target. The first tests flights are expected to take place within the next few months, into early next year.

Two companies have NASA contracts to provide flights to the ISS between 2019 and 2024: SpaceX and Boeing (ba). The first Crew Dragon post-certification mission will be flown by Victor Glover, another rookie astronaut selected in 2013, and Mike Hopkins, who spent 166 days on one station mission. "We had our quarterly [review] this week, and for the first time in years, it felt real".

The two pairs of Nasa crewmates will fly to the station with Russian cosmonauts and global astronauts to be announced at a later date.

US astronauts now ride on Russian capsules to the space station. The two companies have also developed new spacesuits, modified their launch pads and established mission control teams to support the upcoming flights.

Behnken, Boe, Hurley and Williams were named in 2015 as Nasa's "commercial crew cadre" and have been working with Boeing and SpaceX on the development of the spacecraft and the simulators that will be used to train astronauts to fly. The cargo missions started in 2012.

NASA/Kennedy Space Center (via Flickr); Boeing; Shayanne Gal/Business InsiderAn illustration of SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft (left) and Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spacecraft (right).

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