The SpaceX crewed test flight, now scheduled for April 2019, will be flown by NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley. Boeing is aiming for a test flight at the end of this year or early next, and the first crew flight in the middle of next year.
He said the announcement advances "our great American vision" and strengthens America's leadership in space. (BA) to the punch when it comes to flying astronauts to the International Space Station. Boeing's Ferguson was pilot on STS-116 on board Space Shuttle Atlantis as well as commander of STS-126 on Space Shuttle Endeavour and the final flight of the space shuttle program, STS-135 on board Atlantis.
The program's core goals are to get an American-made ships able reach the International Space Station (ISS), plus reduce or eliminate United States reliance on Russia's ever-more-expensive Soyuz spaceships to get there.
The new astronauts will travel on a 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.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Government Accountability Office recommended NASA pursue a backup plan for getting astronauts to the ISS, as its contract with Russian Federation to send them to the station via Soyuz launches in Kazakhstan ends at the close of 2019.
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.
In addition to naming the crews of the test flights, NASA also announced the four astronauts who will fly aboard the first operational Starliner and Dragon missions to the space station.
Finally, Nicole Aunapu Mann is a Marine Corps lieutenant, and will be making her first trip to space.
The first full mission of Boeing's Starliner, which will fly to the ISS for a long-duration stay, will take ISS veteran Suni Williams and spaceflight newcomer Josh Cassada.
The space agency says each post-certification flight by the CST-100 Starliner and Crew Dragon spacecraft will carry four passengers on half-year expeditions to the space station. The race to get astronauts to the space station first is real; a USA flag that flew on the first space shuttle flight in 1981 and the last shuttle flight in 2011, awaits the victor. Mr. Ferguson will become the first former NASA astronaut to return to orbit as a company's crew member when he flies. Ferguson is a former NASA astronaut and space shuttle commander who now works on Boeing's Starliner program. He's spent almost 29 days in space. Since her selection as an astronaut in 1998, she has spent 322 days aboard the International Space Station for Expeditions 14/15 and Expeditions 32/33, commanded the space station and performed seven spacewalks. Glover was selected by NASA in 2013, and his mission with SpaceX will mark his first time in space.
Nasa Administrator Jim Bridenstine introduced the astronauts during a ceremony at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
"This is the stuff of dreams ... this is a test pilot's dream", he said.