NASA made the announcement today (Aug. 3) here at the Johnson Space Center, with the agency revealing the eight agency astronauts and one Boeing astronaut before a cheering crowd of lawmakers, dignitaries and kids waving signs and American flags.
As for the SpaceX Crew Dragon test flight, that will launch atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Each astronaut flew on two shuttle missions, including Hurley on the final shuttle flight, STS-135, in 2011.
The test flights and missions aboard Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft, slated for as early as April 2019, will "begin a new era in America spaceflight", the USA space agency said.
- After a seven-year hiatus, American astronauts will once again go to space from the U.S.
Boeing's first Starliner crew will include a former NASA astronaut who commanded the last shuttle flight in 2011, Chris Ferguson, who's now a Boeing employee. Both vehicles were developed in cooperation with NASA to deliver crew members to and from the orbiting laboratory. It'll be his first spaceflight, though he has a wide range of experience with combat missions and testing aircraft. While some NASA astronauts are military officers, NASA itself is a civilian space exploration agency.
Since the space shuttle program was shut down, the United States space agency has had to rely on Russian Federation to fly astronauts to the space station, a $100-billion orbital research laboratory that flies about 402 kilometers above Earth.
On Friday, NASA announced the astronauts that will fly on the first flights of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's crewed Dragon capsule.
Then, in July 2015, NASA offered another nugget: Four of its astronauts had been tapped to start training on SpaceX's Crew Dragon and Boeing's Starliner.
NASA said SpaceX was now aiming to conduct an uncrewed demonstration flight of its upgraded Dragon capsule in November, known as SpaceX Demo-1. Boeing said earlier this week it would carry out a test flight of the Starliner vehicle without humans later this year or in early 2019, after it suffered an issue with the capsule's launch abort system during a test in New Mexico in June, according to SpaceNews. "Each test flight will provide data on the performance of the rockets, spacecraft, ground systems, and operations to ensure the systems are safe to fly astronauts", explained NASA in the statement. She is an F/A-18 test pilot with more than 2,500 flight hours in more than 25 aircraft.
The two astronauts that the SpaceX company will send later will be Mike Hopkins, who spent 166 days in the space lab, and Victor Glover, who will be making his debut.
Williams has spent 322 days in space as part of two expeditions: 14/15 and 32/33. Names of the astronauts were announced Friday. Though that will require final certification for International Space Station deliveries first, the space agency has already confirmed partial crews for those first missions.