NASA Assigns Crews to First Test Flights, Missions on Commercial Spacecraft

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At a Friday press conference at NASA's Johnson Space Center, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine revealed nine of the astronauts that will make the first four crewed flights of Boeing and SpaceX's spacecraft, the CST-100 Starliner and Crew Dragon.

Indian-origin astronaut Sunita Williams is among the nine astronauts named by NASA on Friday for its first human spaceflight programme from the U.S. soil since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011.

Both Boeing and SpaceX say their spacecraft, the CST-100 Starliner and the Crew Dragon, respectively, will be ready for launch sometime next year.

Williams has been named for the Boeing programme to the ISS - the first test flight scheduled to take place in the middle of 2019.

Chris Ferguson, a former NASA astronaut who has worked with Boeing as it developed its Starliner spacecraft, will fly as a private astronaut. The company's first mission, should the test be successful, will be flown by Victor Glover, at his first flight to space, and ISS veteran Michael Hopkins.

NASA's 30-year space shuttle program came to a close in 2011 so the space agency could focus on bigger journeys, like a mission to Mars.

SpaceX's founder and CEO, Elon Musk believes that such reusable spaceships are of great importance and will be very helpful to reduce the expenses of future space missions which will further enable the company to take fearless steps in space tours without considering much about the cost involved.

Glover, a father of four, was serving as a legislative fellow in the U.S. Senate when he joined NASA in 2013 - beating out a field of more than 6,100 applicants.

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The US space agency, meanwhile, is working on building rockets and spacecraft that could allow humans to return to the Moon in the coming decade.

"It's also an opportunity of a lifetime, to be involved in the test and development and then to be there on launch day, and to experience the results of all that hard work" Mann said. The capsules, made by SpaceX and Boeing, will ferry the astronauts and cargo back and forth to the International Space Station. Boe was selected by NASA to be an astronaut in 2000. Mr. Hopkins logged 166 days aboard the space station in 2014.

Veterans of two spaceflights each, Mr. Behnken and Mr. Hurley will lift off atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center's Pad 39A - the same Florida launch pad where the space shuttle left Earth for the last time in July 2011 with Mr. Hurley as pilot.

Douglas Hurley calls Apalachin, New York, his hometown. In 2013 and 2014, Hopkins spent almost six months aboard the ISS, logging almost 13 hours of spacewalks.

Glover, a former Navy commander and test pilot, was also among the 2013 astronaut class.

Josh Cassada grew up in White Bear Lake, Minnesota.

Boeing has leased two of NASA's old space shuttle hangars at KSC, known as Orbiter Processing Facilities, to build its Starliners and house two small robotic X-37B space planes it built for the Air Force. It will be Mr. Cassada's first spaceflight.

Sunita Williams was born in Euclid, Ohio, but considers Needham, Massachusetts, her hometown. The cargo missions started in 2012.