NASA named nine astronauts who will be on the first space flights launched from USA soil since the shuttle program ended in 2011.
The astronauts named on Friday will be carried aloft aboard spacecraft developed by entrepreneur Elon Musk's SpaceX and Boeing Co, crewing first the test flights, and then missions involving both Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon.
After a almost decadelong hiatus, NASA plans to once again start launching piloted spacecraft from American soil, this time aboard two commercially developed vehicles, beginning in early to mid-2019.
When approved, each company is slated for six missions to the space station between 2019 and 2024, a total of 12 missions between the two companies.
Boeing plans to do an uncrewed flight test of its CST-100 Starliner later this year or early next year. His second flight as a pilot was the final scheduled flight of the Discovery - the third-to-last flight of the NASA Space Shuttle Program.More news: Wisconsin man loses both legs after being licked by dog
The next class of NASA astronauts was announced Friday, and they will be the first to man space vehicles owned by commercial companies. "So, our investment in American space exploration always pays back ... multiple folds in terms of the human condition", he added.
The astronauts assigned to the Starliner's first mission are Sunita Williams, who retired as a Navy captain, and Cmdr. He will be joined by Victor Glover, a Navy commander who will be making his first trip into space. "To meet NASA's requirements, the commercial providers must demonstrate that their systems are ready to begin regular flights to the space station". This will be his first spaceflight. At the time, test flights were expected to be just around the corner, and the agency pledged to be rid of Russian reliance in 2017. He is a Navy commander, aviator and test pilot with nearly 3,000 hours flying more than 40 different aircraft.
SpaceX later confirmed a successful splashdown, concluding the company's 15th resupply mission to the space station under the space transport company's more than $3 billion, 20-launch cargo contract with NASA.
During the manned tests, the astronauts will be able to use the displays inside the spacecraft, communicate with mission control and practise manual controls during flight.
The Commercial Crew program, on the whole, has experienced numerous delays and budget shortfalls as Boeing and SpaceX work to bring crewed launches back to the U.S. He has spent 166 days on the International Space Station for Expeditions 37/38, and conducted two spacewalks.
A series of thruster firings propelled the Dragon capsule away from the space station, and the ship's Draco thrusters ignited at 5:23 p.m. EDT (2123 GMT) for a de-orbit burn. The launch window for the mission opens at 3:48 a.m EDT on August 11, 2018.