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.
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.
Targeted to launch in April 2019 aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Bob Behnken is from St. Ann, Missouri. He has a doctorate in engineering, is a flight test engineer, and Colonel in the Air Force. He joined the astronaut corps in 2000, and flew aboard space shuttle Endeavour twice – for the STS-123 and STS-130 missions, during which he performed six spacewalks, for a total of more than 37 hours.
Doug Hurley calls Apalachin, New York, his hometown. He was a test pilot in the Marine Corps before coming to NASA in 2000 to become an astronaut. He achieved the rank of Colonel in the Marine Corps and piloted space shuttle Endeavor for STS-127, and Atlantis for STS-135 – the final space shuttle mission.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In case you missed it, SpaceX recently completed its 16th parachute system test for the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, which will carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
SpaceX conducted the test at Naval Air Facility El Centro in Southern California, deploying parachutes to slow the spacecraft for a safe landing in the desert. Crew Dragon is designed for water landings in a nominal scenario, but the test demonstrated the system’s ability to land the spacecraft safely in the unlikely event of a low altitude abort.
United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V dual engine Centaur (ULA) Crew Flight Test dual engine, at left, and the Orbital Flight test dual engine, at right, for the Centaur stage of the Atlas V rocket are in production on June 11, 2018, at ULA’s factory in Decatur, Alabama. Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner will launch on its first uncrewed flight test on the ULA Atlas V rocket. The Starliner is being developed and manufactured in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to return human spaceflight capabilities to the U.S.
Expedition 56 Commander Drew Feustel and Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold of NASA completed the sixth spacewalk at the International Space Station this year at 2:55 p.m. EDT, lasting 6 hours, 49 minutes. The two astronauts installed new high-definition cameras that will provide enhanced views during the final phase of approach and docking of the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Boeing Starliner commercial crew spacecraft that will soon begin launching from American soil.
They also swapped a camera assembly on the starboard truss of the station, closed an aperture door on an external environmental imaging experiment outside the Japanese Kibo module, and completed two additional tasks to relocate a grapple bar to aid future spacewalkers and secured some gear associated with a spare cooling unit housed on the station’s truss.
Commercial Crew Program astronauts (left to right) Suni Williams, Eric Boe, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley visited Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) March 27. The astronauts toured the pad for an up-close look at preparations in work for the SpaceX Crew Dragon flight tests. The tower modifications, including the recent removal of the rotating service structure, are proof of progress in outfitting the pad for crew once again. Future integration of the crew access arm will allow for safe crew entry and exit from the spacecraft for launch and in the unlikely event of a pad abort scenario.
During their visit to KSC, the astronauts also stopped outside SpaceX’s processing hangar, adjacent to the launch pad and talked directly with SpaceX employees about their excitement as the program builds momentum. SpaceX and Boeing are working toward returning human space flight launches to the U.S. with flight tests targeted later this year.