On Friday, August 3 at an event in Houston, NASA will announce one highly anticipated aspect of the mission: the astronauts assigned to crew the first flight tests of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon.
NASA Administrator, Jim Bridenstine will launch the event with the announcement the pairs of the test-pilots crew that will board Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Dragon for their first crewed test flights from the Space Coast.
After the capsules are certified as safe for the operational mission the crew announcement will be followed. It remains to be seen which company will win the race to fly the first crew under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, and when.
Current schedules are known to have no basis in reality, showing uncrewed test flights planned next month and the first crewed test flights before the end of this year. NASA presumably will update the flight schedules along with the crew assignments.
The Starliner spacecraft of Boeing is to launch atop United Launch Alliance Atlas V rockets and SpaceX’s Dragons will launch atop Falcon 9 rockets from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A. The Starliner and Crew Dragon will launch American astronauts on American-made spacecraft from American soil to the International Space Station.
Since Ferguson led the shuttle Atlantis crew flying the STS-135 mission, NASA has relied on Russia’s Soyuz
spacecraft to fly crews to and from the ISS, the microgravity laboratory complex orbiting 250 miles overhead. It will use up its Soyuz seats in late 2019 that might raise the risk of not staffing the space station if Boeing and SpaceX aren’t certified for operational missions by early 2020.
The expected announcement by NASA is to be hosted at JSC with no White House participation, potentially including KSC Director Bob Cabana and JSC Director Mark Geyer in making the crew announcements.