NASA is announcing which astronauts will be part of the agency’s first Commercial Crew Program, which will fly with SpaceX and Boeing. The announcement is happening today, August 3, at 11 a.m. Eastern. It will be broadcast live from the Johnson Space Center in Houston. You can also watch it here, in the embedded video above, courtesy of NASA TV. The video will stream other events until the press conference starts at 11 a.m. Eastern.
The astronauts will be crewing the first flight tests and missions of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and the SpaceX Crew Dragon. The event will be led by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
The Starliner will take astronauts to the International Space Station by 2019 or 2020, Space.com reported. The craft is similar in shape to the Apollo spacecraft, but with far more advanced electronics. It can carry up to seven astronauts, and is 14.8 feet at its widest. It will fly into space aboard Atlas 5 rockets. NASA’s commercial crew program is largely funding the development of this craft, which may replace the Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon has a very different shape, with a stubby nose and black fins, Space.com reported. This is a crewed version of the Dragon cargo ship, which will also be used to send astronauts to the International Space Station. It’s also designed to carry up to seven astronauts, and this one will launch on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets.
This will also be the first time NASA has launched astronauts from U.S. soil since 2011, when the shuttle was retired.
Both test flights are scheduled for 2019, according to a new schedule that NASA released on August 2. NASA had originally planned to fly unmanned test flights this month, with crewed test missions in October and November. Those have all been pushed back. SpaceX’s uncrewed flight is scheduled for November 2018, and its crewed flight is scheduled for April 2019. Boeing’s uncrewed flight is scheduled for late 2018/early 2019, and its crewed flight is scheduled for mid-2019.
Two NASA astronauts will be on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon flights, and one NASA astronaut will be on a Boeing test flight. In 2015, NASA had announced that four astronauts were training for commercial flights: Bob Behnken, Eric Boe, Douglas Hurley, and Sunita Williams.
After today’s big announcement, the astronauts will answer questions on Reddit starting at 12:30 p.m. Eastern. Look for them in Reddit’s AMA section.
Other big events coming up for NASA include:
- August 11, 3:15 a.m.: The launch of the Parker Solar Probe
- August 14, 6 a.m.: The RockSat-X Suborbital Sounding Rocket launch, carrying experiments developed by university students nationwide.
- August 15, 11:15 a.m.: Space Station Expedition 56 Russian Spacewalk (will last approximately 6 hours and 50 minutes)
- September 21, 9 a.m.: Path to Exploration Mission-1 media event
This is a developing story.