Meet the First Astronauts to Fly Commercial U.S. Spacecraft

From left: Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, Bob Behnken, Doug Hurley, Nicole Mann, Chris Ferguson, Eric Boe, Josh Cassada, Suni Williams

Today, NASA announced the astronauts who will launch aboard new American-made spacecraft and rocket systems, the first human launches from the United States since 2011. Nine U.S. astronauts, eight NASA and one from Boeing, were assigned to the first test flights and operational missions for Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

The astronaut assignments are:

This public-private partnership marks the beginning of a new era of human spaceflight. NASA has worked closely with Boeing and SpaceX as the companies design, develop, and test their systems to ensure safe, reliable and cost-effective commercial transportation for astronauts to low-Earth orbit. This will be an unprecedented achievement for the commercial space industry, and will allow NASA to focus on deep space exploration with NASA’s Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System, as we return humans to the Moon and on to Mars.

Ask the Crew Your Questions

From left: Suni Williams, Josh Cassada, Eric Boe, Nicole Mann, Chris Ferguson, Doug Hurley, Bob Behnken, Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover

This morning at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, nine astronauts were assigned to four Commercial Crew flights aboard Boeing and SpaceX spacecraft.

Boeing’s crew flight test aboard its Starliner spacecraft, which is targeted to launch in mid-2019, will have Eric Boe, Chris Ferguson and Nicole Mann on board. Boeing’s first post-certification mission will have Josh Cassada and Suni Williams aboard.

SpaceX’s demo mission 2 aboard its Crew Dragon spacecraft, which is targeted to launch in April 2019, will have Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley aboard. The first post-certification mission will be crewed by Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins.

Do you have questions for our elite astronauts? They will take your questions during a Reddit Ask Me Anything at 12:30 p.m. Eastern, at https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/.

Meet the Astronauts Assigned to Boeing’s First Mission

From left: Josh Cassada, Suni Williams

These two NASA astronauts will launch to the International Space Station for a long-duration mission aboard Boeing’s CST-100 Statliner atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The crew:

Josh Cassada grew up in White Bear Lake, Minnesota. He is a Navy Commander and test pilot with more than 3,500 flight hours in more than 40 aircraft. He was selected as an astronaut in 2013. This will be his first spaceflight.

Suni Williams was born in Euclid, Ohio, but her hometown is Needham, Massachusetts. Suni came to NASA from the Navy, where she was a test pilot and rose to the rank of Captain. Since being selected as an astronaut in 1998, she has spent 322 days in space, commanded the International Space Station and performed seven spacewalks.

Meet the Astronauts Flying Boeing’s Crew Flight Test

From left: Eric Boe, Nicole Mann, Chris Ferguson

Targeted to launch in mid-2019 aboard a Starliner spacecraft atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The crew:

Eric Boe was born in Miami but grew up in Atlanta. He came to NASA from the Air Force, where he was a fighter pilot and test pilot and rose to the rank of Colonel. He was selected as an astronaut in 2000, and piloted space shuttle Endeavour for the STS-126 mission, and Discovery on its final flight, STS-133.

Chris Ferguson is a native of Philadelphia. He is a retired Navy captain, who piloted space shuttle Atlantis for STS-115, and commanded shuttles Endeavour and Atlantis on STS-126 and STS-135 – the final flight of the space shuttle program. He retired from NASA in 2011, and has been an integral part of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner program.

Nicole Aunapu Mann is a California native and a Lieutenant Colonel in the Marine Corps.  She is an F/A-18 test pilot with more than 2,500 flight hours in over 25 aircraft. She was selected as an astronaut in 2013, and this will be her first trip to space.

The Commercial Crew Strategy

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with the American aerospace industry as companies develop and operate a new generation of spacecraft and launch systems designed to carry crews safely to and from low-Earth orbit. The Starliner and Crew Dragon will launch American astronauts on American-made spacecraft from American soil to the International Space Station for the first time since NASA retired its Space Shuttle Program in 2011.

Commercial transportation to and from the space station will enable expanded station use, additional research time and broader opportunities of discovery aboard the orbiting laboratory. The station is critical for NASA to understand and overcome the challenges of long-duration spaceflight, and necessary for a sustainable presence on the Moon and missions deeper into the solar system, including Mars.

Crew Flight Assignments Announcement on NASA TV at 11 a.m. Eastern

This morning at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, NASA will announce the astronauts who will be assigned to four commercial crew flights aboard Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will preside over the event, which will begin at 11 a.m. EDT on NASA Television.

Following the announcement, the astronauts will participate in a Reddit Ask Me Anything at 12:30 p.m. at: https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program Target Test Flight Dates

The next generation of American spacecraft and rockets that will launch astronauts to the International Space Station are nearing the final stages of development and evaluation. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program will return human spaceflight launches to U.S. soil, providing safe, reliable and cost-effective access to low-Earth orbit on systems that meet our safety and mission requirements. To meet NASA’s requirements, the commercial providers must demonstrate that their systems are ready to begin regular flights to the space station. Two of those demonstrations are uncrewed flight tests, known as Orbital Flight Test for Boeing, and Demo-1 for SpaceX. After the uncrewed flight tests, both companies will execute a flight test with crew prior to being certified by NASA for crew rotation missions. The following schedule reflects the most recent publicly releasable dates for both providers.

Targeted Test Flight Dates:
Boeing Orbital Flight Test (uncrewed): late 2018 / early 2019
Boeing Crew Flight Test (crewed): mid-2019
SpaceX Demo-1 (uncrewed): November 2018
SpaceX Demo-2 (crewed): April 2019

Astronaut Crew Quarters Upgraded

NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is actively preparing for a return to human spaceflight, with Boeing and SpaceX uncrewed flight tests, followed by crew flight tests and missions.

When our astronauts arrive before their missions, they will spend eight to nine days quarantined in astronaut crew quarters. The crew quarters occupies about 26,000 square feet of the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at Kennedy. Access is restricted to this area, which features 23 bedrooms — each with a bathroom — and the iconic suit room, where astronauts are helped into their pressure suits moments before boarding a vehicle to take them to the pad for launch.

A significant, recently completed upgrade will await the commercial crew astronauts when they arrive at Kennedy. There are new carpets and ceiling tiles, and fresh paint on the walls. Appliances all have been replaced, as has the audio/visual teleconference system in both conference rooms. The suit room, last used in an official capacity in July 2011 for STS-135, the final mission of the Space Shuttle Program, has been reactivated and remodeled. The area is furnished with new recliners and tables, and there are now three suit containment rooms — one each for Orion, Boeing and SpaceX.

Learn more about the upgrades to crew quarters here: https://go.nasa.gov/2OyFmp0

NASA, Commercial Partners Progress to Human Spaceflight Home Stretch

NASA and commercial industry partners Boeing and SpaceX are making significant advances in preparing to launch our astronauts from U.S. soil for the first time since the space shuttle’s retirement in 2011.  Let’s take a look at some of the highlights from 2018 to this point.

On the International Space Station, the crew aboard continues preparations for new visiting spacecraft.  In June, astronauts installed a high-definition camera to assist with the docking of Boeing and SpaceX’s capsules as they approach for docking.

Meanwhile, on the ground, significant progress continues to take place for Boeing and SpaceX in final preparations for flight testing.  Both companies have several spacecraft and rockets in various stages of production. Teams have practiced interfacing with the spacecraft, and rehearsed launch countdown and landing procedures, as well as emergency scenarios both at the launch pad and in flight.

With the upcoming flights to begin from Boeing and SpaceX, final rounds of crew and mission support practice, qualification tests, and simulations of multiple mission scenarios, serve to bring us on the doorstep of America’s next great chapter in space flight.

Learn more about the exciting work that both companies have done thus far in 2018, at https://go.nasa.gov/2LH1K17