NASA announced today that after years of cooperative development with both SpaceX and Boeing it has chosen a total of 9 astronauts from its ranks to fly the first manned commercial missions into space. These missions signify a rebirth for American space programs, and will be the first astronauts to launch from American soil since the retirement of the shuttle program in 2011. Since then all space travel has taken place in Russian Soyuz vehicles under a contract that ends in late 2019.
These astronauts are assigned to 4 different crews, one for each of the four missions. 4 astronauts were chosen for the planned SpaceX Dragon flights, 2 for each launch. An additional 5 crew members for the Boeing Starliner flights. 3 assigned to the initial test and 2 for the post-certification flight.
The first crew for SpaceX Dragon flight DM-2 the first manned test flight Nasa space veterans Bob Behnken (flight test engineer with 6 spacewalks totaling 37 hours under his belt) and Doug Hurley (piloted 2 previous shuttle missions). Their flight is planned for April 2019 and will take place on the back of a Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center.
Next, provided there are no major delays or issues there will be another Dragon flight, SpaceX’s first post-certification mission, and NASA has assigned 2 crew members, Victor Glover (seasoned Navy commander, with experience piloting more than 40 different aircraft, but no time in space, yet) and Mike Hopkins (who has spent nearly 6 months in space)
Sometime in mid-late 2019 is the approximate launch date for Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and will include a 3 person crew from NASA. Eric Boe is a former US Air Force Colonel who has piloted 2 previous shuttle missions, Chris Ferguson who is a well flown NASA veteran having Piloted Atlantis once and commanded to additional Atlantis missions, and Nicole Mann who is a Marine Lieutenant Colonel, test pilot with more than 2,500 flight hours logged, this will be her first time in space.
Hopefully soon after the first Boeing Starliner post-certification mission with be crewed by Navy test pilot Josh Cassada on his first trip to space, and Suni Williams who was a commander on the ISS and has lived in space for nearly a year. Both Boeing launches will be taking off from Cape Canaveral.
Both post-certification flights will be destined for the ISS and will also include Russian cosmonauts and other international crew members that are yet to be announced.