Sunita Williams among 9 astronauts to fly first commercial spacecraft

A support structure for Boeing's Starliner spacecraft the first flight of which has been postponed to 2019 is seen being installed in Cape Canaveral Florida in 2016

On board Starliner's first extended mission will be NASA veteran Sunita Williams, a retired Navy captain and one of the most experienced American astronauts in history, and Josh Cassada, a Navy pilot making his first flight to space.

These US astronauts previously flew aboard Russian spacecraft to get to the ISS.

The missions will mark the first crewed launches from US soil since the end of the space shuttle programme in 2011.

On the SpaceX vessel will be astronauts Doug Hurley, Victor Glover, Robert Behnken and Michael Hopkins.

This is also the first time that U.S. private companies will handle this routing, since NASA asked Boeing and SpaceX in 2014 to develop new launch systems to take over in 2019. NPR reports that some critics think the SLS is too expensive compared to industry developments like SpaceX's Falcon Heavy.

SpaceX's ambitious Dragon Spacecraft rings in the good news of the successful completion of another International Space Station mission (CRS-15).

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The two companies are planning for a test flight of their capsules by the end of this year or early next year, with the first crews hoping to fly from Cape Canaveral, Florida, by next spring or summer.

NASA is now assigning crew members to these test missions, and will work with both companies and the Eastern range to clear launch dates that will allow all science investigations and other operations on the ISS will not be interrupted. It will mark Mann's first trip to space.

Of the four crews named, two will launch test flight missions and two crews will launch to the International Space Station where they will live and work in space before returning to Earth in the crew vehicles. Similarly, the first Starliner is being now being outfitted for launch at Kennedy Space Center, and the test flight's Atlas V Centaur upper stage-never flown in the dual-engine configuration-ships to Florida in August.

Ferguson isn't now a NASA employee, though he served as an astronaut from 1998 to 2011 and commanded the final Space Shuttle mission.

For SpaceX's first flight to the ISS, the NASA crew will be Victor Glover on his first space flight and Mike Hopkins, who spent 166 days in space as part of Expedition 37/38.

"We congratulate all the astronauts chosen to fly to the space station on commercially developed systems", added Caret, a two-time Wash100 recipient. As it stands now, SpaceX currently holds the contract with NASA to do 12 robotic supply flights to the station for a minimum amount of $1.6 billion. SpaceX says their test flight will happen this November, while Boeing is now targeting late 2018 or early 2019. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, she said, founded the company in 2002 to build the safest and most reliable spacecraft possible. He has logged more than 40 days in space across three space shuttle missions. Boeing's spacecraft CST-100 Starliner is also expected to be reusable and will launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. He also serves as a Navy commander, naval aviator and was a test pilot. By naming crews, NASA is signaling its belief that these astronauts will fly sometime soon.

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