First NASA Space Launch with Private Sector | aerospace | commercial space flight

Jan Cross
August 6, 2018

They will be the first Americans to launch into space from USA soil since NASA's space shuttle program retired in 2011.Since then, the us has relied on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft to carry Americans space. NASA astronauts Eric Boe and Nicole Aunapu Mann, along with Boeing's company astronaut Christopher Ferguson, will fly on the Boeing Starliner test flight.

NASA named nine astronauts who will be on the first space flights launched from United States soil since the shuttle program ended in 2011.

In a ceremony at the Johnson Space Center here, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine stood on a stage with a massive American flag, and introduced the crews, one-by-one, as they came on stage in distinct groups: one for SpaceX, the other Boeing. "Today's announcement advances our great American vision and strengthens the nation's leadership in space", he added.

The crews would fly on spacecraft developed not by NASA, but by two corporations, SpaceX and Boeing, which are under contract to provide a taxi-like service to the International Space Station. He is a retired Navy captain, who piloted space shuttle Atlantis for STS-115, and commanded shuttle Endeavour on STS-126 and Atlantis for the final flight of the Space Shuttle Program, STS-135. The astronauts have been training with SpaceX and Boeing, on top of their NASA work, ever since. Since then, the space agency has turned to private space firms, like SpaceX, to oversee cargo runs to the ISS, while sending USA astronauts there on Russian rockets. "(I'm) going, 'Wow, I hope I'm going to make you proud'".

Veteran station flight engineer Mike Hopkins will be accompanied by rookie astronaut Victor Glover on the Crew Dragon's first operational flight to the station.

With the start of four-person commercial missions, the International Space Station crew is slated to grow by one to a seven-person residency in order to maximize the science that can be conducted on board. Public and private entities joining forces for these proto flights means the crewed test phase could be of the most monumental leaps in human spaceflight since NASA's Space Shuttle Program was retired in 2011.

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NASA astronauts Robert Behnken, 48, and Douglas Hurley, 51, will fly together as SpaceX's first Crew Dragon crew.

This will be the first trip into space for Mr. Glover, Mr. Cassada and Ms. Mann.

The Starliner will launch aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Boeing said only that it would fly NASA's astronauts by sometime in the middle of next year. NASA also said SpaceX will launch an uncrewed flight test in November, with Boeing not expected to do that until late in 2018 or in the early part of next year.

The Government Accountability Office said last month that launch plans could be delayed due to incomplete safety measures and accountability issues in NASA's commercial crew program. It now looks like SpaceX will be the first to launch humans on its crew Dragon spacecraft, set for April 2019.

After each company successfully completes its crewed test flight, NASA will begin the final process of certifying that spacecraft and systems for regular crew missions to the space station. All but three of the astronauts are space flight veterans.

SpaceX has also faced its own problems, particularly with its Falcon 9 rocket that will power the Dragon into space.

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