Needham astronaut heading back to space on first commercial flights

NASA is naming 8 astronauts to fly SpaceX and Boeing's new spaceships - here's how to watch the announcement live

NASA will name 1st astronauts to fly commercial spacecraft to International Space Station

Assignments for the crew flight tests and the first post-certification missions will be revealed during an event that kicks off at 11 a.m. EDT at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

NASA on Friday named nine astronauts for the first manned space launches from US soil since the space shuttle program ended in 2011.

NASA will announce the astronauts for the first test flights and missions of the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft Friday.

Boeing's first Starliner crew will include a former NASA astronaut who commanded the last shuttle flight in 2011, Chris Ferguson, who's now a Boeing employee. Boeing said earlier this week it would carry out a test flight of the Starliner vehicle without humans later this year or in early 2019, after it suffered an issue with the capsule's launch abort system during a test in New Mexico in June, according to SpaceNews.

SpaceX did not give a reason for the delay of its first crewed test flight.

"Safely and reliably flying commercial crew missions for NASA remains the highest priority for SpaceX", Benji Reed, SpaceX's director of crew mission management, said in a statement.

Since then, astronauts have relied on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to transport them to and from the orbiting space station. Behnken is a retired Air Force pilot with two shuttle flights and six space walks under his belt.

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"The opportunity to fly in a new vehicle is any test pilot and astronaut's dream", Mike Hopkins, an Air Force colonel who will fly aboard the Crew Dragon on its first mission, wrote on Twitter.

Nine astronauts were named to ride the SpaceX Dragon and Boeing Starliner capsules - five on the first crew flights and four on the second round of missions to the International Space Station.

"Space has transformed the American way of life", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The team is split into two parts, with each group specializing in one of the spacecraft: Boeing's CST-100 Starliner or SpaceX's Dragon. "To meet NASA's requirements, the commercial providers must demonstrate that their systems are ready to begin regular flights to the space station". While she was there in 2007, she completed the Boston Marathon - on a treadmill - in 4 hours 24 minutes, marking the first time an entrant had finished the race from orbit. Mann was selected as an astronaut in 2013.

Since 2010, that program has inched along, moving ever-closer to crewed and uncrewed test flights. SpaceX's first operational flight to the space station will also be Glover's first flight to space. Boeing's and SpaceX's commercial spacecraft may also open the space station - and more broadly, Earth orbit - to more privately-funded visitors and spaceflight participants from countries that do not have their own domestic crewed spacecraft and rockets.

SpaceX will launch from Kennedy Space Center on board Falcon 9 rockets while Boeing will send its crew capsule up from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station atop United Launch Alliance Atlas V rockets. But while the newly announced crews are excited to once again launch from Florida instead of Kazakhstan, they aren't very nostalgic for the hardware of the shuttles themselves.

The contracts for travel to the International Space Station were awarded in 2014.

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