NASA to announce new astronaut class on Friday

Here's Why Boeing Used an Inflatable Spaceship to Test'Starliner Landing Recovery Plans

Here's Why Boeing Used an Inflatable Spaceship to Test'Starliner Landing Recovery Plans

Astronaut Eric Boy is introduced as NASA announces the crew assignments for the first flight tests, missions of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon, at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, U.S., August 3, 2018. Crew members have worked years with companies to get here and they said they can not wait for the flights to begin next year.

"NASA's Commercial Crew Program will return human spaceflight launches to US soil, providing safe, reliable and cost-effective access to low-Earth orbit on systems that meet our safety and mission requirements", said the official blog.

To certify that the Crew Dragon and CST-100 Starliner are ready to become NASA's new go-to space taxis, SpaceX and Boeing are each planning three test missions.

Both Boeing and SpaceX have issues to work out before they can complete their first crewed flights; the 2019 dates are targets and may be optimistic ones at that. - Alan Shepard, John Young are some of America's first explorers into the great unknown, but Friday NASA will announce who will be America's next space pioneers.

The Starliner spacecraft is being outfitted at the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center, according to NASA.

Nasa astronauts Eric Boe, 53, and Nicole Mann, 41, will join the commander of that same final space shuttle mission, former astronaut and now Boeing executive Christopher Ferguson, 56, as the crew of the Starliner test flight, launching atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The missions will mark the first crewed launches from U.S. soil since the end of the space shuttle programme seven years ago.

NASA awaits the completion of both companies' test flights before certifying either safe for use to return astronauts on low-Earth-orbit missions. Just as in the past, all human launches will originate here on the space coast. Boeing most recently suffered a problem while testing its emergency abort system and its first test flight has been delayed until at least mid-2019. Ferguson will become the first former Nasa astronaut to return to orbit as a company's crew member when he flies. It won't be the first time SpaceX trounces Boeing. Hopkins logged 166 days aboard the space station in 2014.

The announcement can be seen on NASA TV and streamed on NASA's Facebook.

Since NASA retired its space shuttles, the agency has had to buy seats on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to get its crews to the International Space Station.

The first test flight for SpaceX and Boeing will be known as Demo-1 and Orbital Flight Test, respectively. With the start of four-person commercial missions, the International Space Station crew is slated to grow by one to a seven-person residency in order to maximize the science that can be conducted on board.

NASA/Kennedy Space Center (via Flickr); Boeing; Shayanne Gal/Business InsiderAn illustration of SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft (left) and Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spacecraft (right).

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