NASA and commercial industry partners Boeing and SpaceX are making significant advances in preparing to launch astronauts from USA soil for the first time since the space shuttle's retirement in 2011.
The names of the astronauts will be unveiled at a news conference at 11 a.m. ET that will be streamed live online on CBC News. As a partner approaches its target readiness date, NASA will work with the company and the Eastern Range to identify launch dates within the busy International Space Station schedule to ensure science investigations, as well as logistics activities and critical operations continue while these new spacecraft are tested.
Dragon's thrusters will fire to move the spacecraft a safe distance from the station before SpaceX flight controllers in Hawthorne, California, command its de-orbit burn.
NASA will announce which astronauts will fly with Boeing and SpaceX at an event Friday at the agency's Johnson Space Center in Houston.
"The resulting schedule that we have will support an uncrewed flight test in late 2018 or early 2019", said Mulholland, who manages the Starliner program for Boeing.
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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. NASA's Commercial Crew program intends to use one of the private USA spacecraft and stop relying on the global ones.
At the same time, rival company SpaceX is still on track for the August launch of DM-1, the unmanned demonstration mission of its Crew Dragon capsule, note the sources. Sometimes called the "Commercial Crew Cadre", those astronauts are seasoned veterans who've worked closely with Boeing and SpaceX on their new spacecraft and systems over the past three years.
To that effect, the space agency is getting ready to appoint the crew of the first manned missions to test the CST-100 Starliner (pictured left in the photo above) and the Crew Dragon (imaged right) capsules, NASA disclosed in a news release. The goal: ensure NASA astronauts can access the International Space Station and end U.S. reliance on Russia's increasingly expensive Soyuz spaceships to get there.
According to Investor's Business Daily, it looks like Elon Musk's company might beat Boeing to the punch and be the first to launch its astronaut-ferrying vehicle to the ISS. Separately, SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft for Demo-1 arrived to the Cape in July for final processing. They will launch atop the company's Falcon 9 rockets from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, the same pad, now extensively modifiled, that was once used by shuttles and Saturn 5 moon rockets.
After successful completion of the flight tests with crew, NASA will review flight data to verify the systems meet the agency's safety and performance certification requirements and are ready to begin regular servicing missions to the space station. The crewed test flights were also supposed to take place this year - Boeing's in November and SpaceX's in December.