NASA Reveals Their First-Round Draft Picks For Astronauts To Crew The First Manned SpaceX And Boeing Test Flights: Here's All The Details

Friday, 03 August 2018 - 3:12PM
SpaceX
Friday, 03 August 2018 - 3:12PM
NASA Reveals Their First-Round Draft Picks For Astronauts To Crew The First Manned SpaceX And Boeing Test Flights: Here's All The Details
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NASA
SpaceX has edged ahead of Boeing in the race to develop a commercial spacecraft for NASA that will shuttle astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

NASA just released an official statement that the first crewed SpaceX Dragon test flight has been scheduled for April 2019, while the Boeing CST-100 Starliner isn't cleared for takeoff until an unspecified date later that year. Crew announcements for both companies first official missions to the ISS were also released Friday morning.

NASA retired the American Space Shuttle in 2011, relying instead on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft to transport American astronauts to the ISS at a cool $70-$80 million per person. According to Fortune, the last NASA astronaut will fly onboard the Soyuz in November 2019, with plans to exclusively use commercial spacecraft for U.S.-based missions after that point.

This announcement is a big step forward for both SpaceX and Boeing, which have run up against countless problems, false starts, and delays in the construction and testing of their space capsules for carrying passengers.

Remember that one time SpaceX lost a top-secret government satellite?



The SpaceX Dragon capsule was the first commercial spacecraft to deliver supplies to the ISS in 2012, but there are very different requirements when that cargo is human. The spacecraft has been designed to seat seven, with carbon-fiber seats that wouldn't look out of place in a Maserati and eight emergency escape engines with G-forces claimed comparable to "a ride at Disneyland." Did we mention there's climate control?

Boeing's Starliner capsule lacks some of Dragon's superficial flash, drawing instead upon the company's storied aviation history (every single American spacecraft has relied on Boeing technology). The Starliner also seats up to seven – or four astronauts plus luggage. It's designed for land-based returns, unlike the Dragon which requires a splashdown. Docking at the Space Station is completely autonomous to decrease training time, but cockpit controls allow for manual override by the pilot in a nod to commercial aviation. …It also has WiFi.

Flying the first SpaceX Dragon crewed test scheduled for April are Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley. Its manned maiden voyage to the ISS will carry astronauts Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins. They'll ride shotgun on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at Kennedy Space Center.

Boeing's crewed flight test will be piloted by Chris Ferguson, Nicole Mann, and Eric Boe. Its first official mission will take astronauts Suni Williams and Josh Cassada to the International Space Station. Both are currently unscheduled but will launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Although Elon Musk is probably popping Champagne, NASA warns that they should have reached this milestone last year, and threatens to make backup plans in case delays continue as frequently as they have done in the past. Nevertheless, it's an auspicious day in aerospace history – and an official step towards regular commercial flights to space.
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