- SpaceX and Boeing built new spaceships for NASA to fly its astronauts into orbit.
- NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, as it’s called, will soon launch launch one uncrewed and two crewed test flights of each new spacecraft.
- Today, NASA plans to announce the eight astronauts who will fly either SpaceX’s Crew Dragon or Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner ships for the first time.
- NASA TV is broadcasting video of the announcement live from Texas.
NASA is about to name the first astronauts ever to fly commercial spaceships.
This morning, the space agency plans to announce crews for the first flights of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner. NASA will broadcast video of the announcement, and you can watch live starting around 11 a.m. EDT via the embed at the end of this post.
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. Since then, NASA has been forced to rely solely on Russia’s increasingly expensive Soyuz spaceships to get to the International Space Station (ISS), in which the US government has invested about $100 billion.
SpaceX and Boeing’s new spacecraft are shaping up to be two solutions to that problem. They’re both the result of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program: a nearly 10-year-long, $8-billion effort to maintain access to orbit for US astronauts.
However, both companies still have to prove that their vehicles can fly to the ISS and return safely to Earth.
To certify that the Crew Dragon and CST-100 Starliner are ready to become NASA’s new go-to space taxis, SpaceX and Boeing are each planning three test missions. Flights without any people are expected before the end of 2018, followed by two crewed missions sometime in 2019. (The first test flights were originally slated to launch in 2017, but the program didn’t meet that deadline.)
- NASA/Kennedy Space Center (via Flickr); Boeing; Shayanne Gal/Business Insider
Four of a minimum of eight astronauts will almost certainly be Bob Behnken, Eric Boe, Doug Hurley, and Sunita “Suni” Williams. Sometimes called the “Commercial Crew Cadre,” those astronauts are seasoned veterans who’ve worked closely with Boeing and SpaceX on their new spacecraft and systems over the past three years.
The other four-plus astronauts that NASA has selected aren’t yet publicly known. (However, Boeing also plans to launch a third person on its first crewed mission: Chris Ferguson, a company employee and retired NASA astronaut, according to the Washington Post.)
NASA plans to announce its final decision on the crews – at least two astronauts for each of the four crewed test flights – this morning.
You can watch NASA’s Commercial Crew Program mission selection event live via NASA TV, which is streaming video from Johnson Space Center in Texas.
Around 11 a.m. EDT, return to this page and click the player below.