How Astronauts Train to Fly Commercial Spacecraft

From trying on spacesuits to preparing for potential emergencies, see how astronauts are getting ready to fly on the test flights and first missions of Boeing’s Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon.

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

NASA, SpaceX Agree on Plans for Crew Launch Day Operations

We are finalizing plans with SpaceX for launch day operations at Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center as they prepare for the company’s first flight test with astronauts on board.

A key question the program and the company have been assessing is whether the astronauts will climb aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft before or after SpaceX fuels the Falcon 9 rocket. NASA has made the decision to move forward with SpaceX’s plan to fuel the rocket after the astronauts are in place. While the agreement makes this plan the baseline for operations, it is contingent upon NASA’s final certification of the operation. Learn more: https://go.nasa.gov/2Mwl1mh

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.