Today (Aug. 3), NASA will announce the first commercial crew astronauts who will fly in SpaceX and Boeing spacecraft.
These are also the first flights to launch from the United States soil since the space shuttle retired in 2011.
The two American corporations SpaceX and Boeing are under contract to provide a taxi-like service to the International Space Station. So, this is the first time the crews will fly on spacecraft developed not by NASA but instead by private agencies. Astronauts will use Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon vehicles, currently scheduled for 2019.
In 2014, Boeing and SpaceX were awarded a combined $6.8 billion in contracts from NASA to develop spacecraft capable of flying crews to the space station.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said it was a historic moment for the space agency, saying: “We are going to launch American astronauts from American soil. That’s a big deal.”
Currently, all astronauts and cosmonauts heading to space ride Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft, which lifts off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
So, the announcement will be broadcast live at 11 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT) from Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, and you can watch it live on NASA TV. But we will also share it on our Cosmoknowledge page on Facebook.
The event will feature NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, JSC Director Mark Geyer and Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana. Representatives from Boeing and SpaceX will also participate, NASA officials have said.
Two NASA astronauts will launch aboard the SpaceX’s Crew Dragon flights, whereas Boeing will carry only one NASA astronaut including a Boeing test pilot, Jeff Foust reported for SpaceNews last year.
Another version of the Dragon spacecraft has been bringing cargo to the station since 2012.
Thumbnail Image: Artistic renderings of SpaceX and Boeing’s Commercial Crew spacecraft. Credit: SpaceX/Boeing/Michael Stillwell