NASA officials have announced the astronauts that will serve on the first crews of the Commercial Crew Program. The announcement included 9 astronauts, 5 to serve on two Boeing CST-100 Starliner missions and four aboard two SpaceX Crew Dragon missions. The crews will be the first to launch from US soil for over seven years.
The 9 astronauts were announced at a special ceremony at the Johnson Space Center in Houston on August 3, 2018. The astronauts include both veterans who have racked up hundreds of days aboard the ISS and rookies who will be leaving the Earth’s atmosphere for the first time.
Crew Dragon Astronauts
The two flights announced for the SpaceX Crew Dragon are an initial test flight followed by the spacecraft’s first official mission. NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will crew the Crew Dragon Test Flight, while Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins will crew the first mission.
CST-100 Starliner Astronauts
Like the Crew Dragon, Boeing will start with a test flight of their CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. If the mission is successful, it will be followed by the spacecraft’s first mission. NASA astronauts Eric Boe, Christopher Ferguson, and Nicole Aunapu Mann will crew the CST-100 Starliner Test Flight, while Josh Cassada and Sunita Williams will crew the first mission.
Prior to the initial crewed test flight, both SpaceX and Boeing will conduct uncrewed demonstration flights. In a statement published on the NASA website, agency officials stated that the uncrewed demonstration flights were “not a NASA requirement for certifying these systems for human spaceflight. Boeing and SpaceX volunteered to perform these tests to demonstrate their systems are safe for crew.”
Boeing has recently delayed their demonstration and test flights after encountering a fault during an escape system test. The provider has not yet released a revised timeline. SpaceX is targeting November 2018 for the Crew Dragon demonstration flight and April 2019 for the crewed test flight. The Crew Dragon will be launched aboard a Falcon 9 from the Kennedy Space Center.