NASA is set to announce the names of the astronauts assigned to the new commercial crew capsules from Boeing and SpaceX, early next month. NASA will announce on August 3, the astronauts assigned to crew the first flight tests and missions of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon, and begin a new era in American spaceflights, the space agency said in a statement on Thursday.
The agency will also announce the crew assignments for the crew flight tests and the first post-certification mission for both Boeing and SpaceX, in a press conference to be presided over by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. In 2014, NASA had partnered with Boeing and SpaceX to develop the Starliner spacecraft to launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket and the Crew Dragon launching atop the Falcon 9 rocket, respectively.
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 Programme in 2011.
The station is critical for NASA to understand and overcome the challenges of long-duration spaceflights, and necessary for a sustainable presence on the Moon and missions deeper into the solar system, including Mars. But, according to a recent US Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, neither is expected to be ready until 2019.