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The space agency also confirmed Boeing's plan to put off its first crewed space taxi mission until mid-2019, and geared up to announce who'd be on the first space taxi flights for SpaceX's Crew Dragon as well as Boeing's Starliner.

Nasa has named the astronauts who will fly the first missions into space on commercially provided rockets and capsules, starting next year.

Former shuttle commander Chris Ferguson, who helmed the final flight of the shuttle Atlantis in 2011, will lead a three-person crew on the first piloted mission of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner capsule.

NASA has been paying billions of dollars to SpaceX and Boeing to develop the crew capsules to pick up where the shuttles left off, while also paying billions for cargo deliveries to the space station by SpaceX and Northrop Grumman.

Astronaut Doug Hurley, who will be on the first crew of the SpaceX Dragon, hinted at the delays when he noted, "The first flight is something you dream about as a test pilot, and you don't think it's ever going to happen to you". However, a NASA spokesman said that does not guarantee those four astronauts will be assigned to an actual mission.

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NASA contracted both companies to shuttle astronauts to and from the International Space Station following the retirement of the space shuttle fleet in 2011. Flights without any people are expected before the end of 2018, followed by two crewed missions sometime in 2019. NASA astronauts Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins would fly Dragon's first operational mission to the space station. NASA had originally expected the companies to have their spacecraft ready for missions to the International Space Station by the end of past year, but neither were able to meet that target. On the right, NASA astronauts conduct a fully-suited exercise in Boeing's CST-100 Starliner mock-up trainer in early May at the agency's Johnson Space Center in Houston. Boeing and Space Adventures, the US company that arranged space tourist flights on Russian Soyuz spacecraft, have a partnership that could allow paying passengers to ride in a fifth seat on CST-100 missions for shorter-duration missions. "To meet NASA's requirements, the commercial providers must demonstrate that their systems are ready to begin regular flights to the space station".

Following this first trial flight, two pilots will travel in the Starliner to the ISS: Suni Williams, who since he was picked to be an astronaut in 1998 has made seven space flights and has spent more than 322 days in the stratosphere, and Josh Cassada, who has yet to make his first space flight.

Victor Glover: Glover was selected as an astronaut in 2013 after a career in the Navy as a test pilot. "Each test flight will provide data on the performance of the rockets, spacecraft, ground systems, and operations to ensure the systems are safe to fly astronauts", explained NASA in the statement. This will be her first trip to space. 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 Starliner will launch aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. SpaceX's manned test flight will feature two NASA astronauts. Hopkins logged 166 days aboard the space station in 2014.


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