SpaceX and Boeing commercial crew capsule test dates slip yet again

One of the most important upcoming events in the space industry is undoubtedly the advent of SpaceX and Boeing’s competing crew-bearing capsules, which the companies have been working on for years. But today brings yet another delay for both programs, already years behind schedule.

One of the most important upcoming events in the space industry is undoubtedly the advent of SpaceX and Boeing’s competing crew-bearing capsules, which the companies have been working on for years. But today brings yet another delay for both programs, already years behind schedule.

Boeing’s Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsules will in the future be used to send astronauts to the International Space Station and conceivably other orbital platforms. As such they are being engineered and tested with a rigor greatly exceeding that of ordinary cargo capsules.

It isn’t an easy task, though, and both companies have come a long way, we’re well past the original estimated service debut of 2017. When it comes to shooting humans into space, of course, it’s done when it’s done, and not a day before.

This month was to be a major milestone for Crew Dragon, which was scheduled to make an uncrewed test trip to the ISS; Boeing planned to perform orbital tests soon as well, but both have been put off, according to NASA’s Commercial Crew blog:

The agency now is targeting March 2 for launch of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon on its uncrewed Demo-1 test flight. Boeing’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test is targeted for launch no earlier than April.

These adjustments allow for completion of necessary hardware testing, data verification, remaining NASA and provider reviews, as well as training of flight controllers and mission managers.

In other words, they’re just plain not ready. Close, but for human spaceflight close isn’t good enough.

The rest of 2019 will, if there are no serious delays, be filled with further milestones in the program. Here’s the tentative schedule:

  • SpaceX Demo-1 (uncrewed): March 2, 2019
  • Boeing Orbital Flight Test (uncrewed): NET April 2019
  • Boeing Pad Abort Test: NET May 2019
  • SpaceX In-Flight Abort Test: June 2019
  • SpaceX Demo-2 (crewed): July 2019
  • Boeing Crew Flight Test (crewed): NET August 2019

This summer, then, should be a momentous one for space travel. In the meantime the only way to get people into orbit is the Russian Soyuz system, which has proven itself over and over but ultimately is both outdated and, well, Russian. A homegrown, 21st-century alternative is rapidly becoming a must-have.

SpaceX and Boeing commercial crew capsule test dates slip yet again

One of the most important upcoming events in the space industry is undoubtedly the advent of SpaceX and Boeing’s competing crew-bearing capsules, which the companies have been working on for years. But today brings yet another delay for both programs, already years behind schedule.

One of the most important upcoming events in the space industry is undoubtedly the advent of SpaceX and Boeing’s competing crew-bearing capsules, which the companies have been working on for years. But today brings yet another delay for both programs, already years behind schedule.

Boeing’s Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsules will in the future be used to send astronauts to the International Space Station and conceivably other orbital platforms. As such they are being engineered and tested with a rigor greatly exceeding that of ordinary cargo capsules.

It isn’t an easy task, though, and both companies have come a long way, we’re well past the original estimated service debut of 2017. When it comes to shooting humans into space, of course, it’s done when it’s done, and not a day before.

This month was to be a major milestone for Crew Dragon, which was scheduled to make an uncrewed test trip to the ISS; Boeing planned to perform orbital tests soon as well, but both have been put off, according to NASA’s Commercial Crew blog:

The agency now is targeting March 2 for launch of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon on its uncrewed Demo-1 test flight. Boeing’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test is targeted for launch no earlier than April.

These adjustments allow for completion of necessary hardware testing, data verification, remaining NASA and provider reviews, as well as training of flight controllers and mission managers.

In other words, they’re just plain not ready. Close, but for human spaceflight close isn’t good enough.

The rest of 2019 will, if there are no serious delays, be filled with further milestones in the program. Here’s the tentative schedule:

  • SpaceX Demo-1 (uncrewed): March 2, 2019
  • Boeing Orbital Flight Test (uncrewed): NET April 2019
  • Boeing Pad Abort Test: NET May 2019
  • SpaceX In-Flight Abort Test: June 2019
  • SpaceX Demo-2 (crewed): July 2019
  • Boeing Crew Flight Test (crewed): NET August 2019

This summer, then, should be a momentous one for space travel. In the meantime the only way to get people into orbit is the Russian Soyuz system, which has proven itself over and over but ultimately is both outdated and, well, Russian. A homegrown, 21st-century alternative is rapidly becoming a must-have.

Malfunction mars the landing for SpaceX’s latest Falcon 9 resupply mission to the ISS

The latest Falcon 9 mission launched successfully, but its reusable booster just missed sticking the landing thanks to a stalled hydraulic pump on the grid fin, according to a tweet by Elon Musk. Grid fin hydraulic pump stalled, so Falcon landed just out to sea. Appears to be undamaged & is transmitting data. Recovery ship […]

The latest Falcon 9 mission launched successfully, but its reusable booster just missed sticking the landing thanks to a stalled hydraulic pump on the grid fin, according to a tweet by Elon Musk.

Footage captured by the Twitch streamer DazValdez, who was on the ground for the launch, managed to record the whole missed landing.

The Tuesday flight from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida is delivering 5,600 pounds of equipment and supplies to the International Space Station. And marks the 16th supply run SpaceX has made out to the Space Station.

SpaceX has had a busy week already. Yesterday the company launched a commercial flight with a payload of 64 small satellites.

Malfunction mars the landing for SpaceX’s latest Falcon 9 resupply mission to the ISS

The latest Falcon 9 mission launched successfully, but its reusable booster just missed sticking the landing thanks to a stalled hydraulic pump on the grid fin, according to a tweet by Elon Musk. Grid fin hydraulic pump stalled, so Falcon landed just out to sea. Appears to be undamaged & is transmitting data. Recovery ship […]

The latest Falcon 9 mission launched successfully, but its reusable booster just missed sticking the landing thanks to a stalled hydraulic pump on the grid fin, according to a tweet by Elon Musk.

Footage captured by the Twitch streamer DazValdez, who was on the ground for the launch, managed to record the whole missed landing.

The Tuesday flight from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida is delivering 5,600 pounds of equipment and supplies to the International Space Station. And marks the 16th supply run SpaceX has made out to the Space Station.

SpaceX has had a busy week already. Yesterday the company launched a commercial flight with a payload of 64 small satellites.

11 moments from the International Space Station’s first 20 years

It was November 20, 1998, when an unprecedented international coalition of astronomers, engineers, and rocket scientists saw years of collaboration come to fruition with the launch of the International Space Station’s first component. Since then the largest spacecraft ever built has hosted innumerable astronauts, experiments, and other craft. Here are a few notable moments in the history of this inspiring and decades-spanning mission.

It was November 20, 1998, when an unprecedented international coalition of astronomers, engineers and rocket scientists saw years of collaboration come to fruition with the launch of the International Space Station’s first component. Since then, the largest spacecraft ever built has hosted innumerable astronauts, experiments and other craft. Here are a few notable moments in the history of this inspiring and decades-spanning mission.

1984: Reagan proposes the ISS — without Russia

The space station was originally going to be a U.S. effort, but soon became a collaboration with Canada, Japan and Europe, excluding the then-USSR. American-Russian relations were strained then, as you may remember, and although many in the space industry itself would have preferred working together, the political climate did not permit it. Nevertheless, initial work began.

1993: Clinton adds Russia to the bill

The collapse of the Soviet Union and subsequent rejuvenation of international relations led President Bush to bring them into the program in a limited fashion, as a supplier and as a guest on a shuttle mission. The next year, however, President Clinton one-upped him with the announcement that Russia would be a full partner. This was both a practical and political decision: Russian involvement would save billions, but it also helped bring Russia on board with other issues, like ICBM de-proliferation efforts. At any rate, designs were finally beginning to be built.

1998: The first components, Zarya and Unity, launch to orbit

Endeavour approaches Zarya when the latter was the only component in place.

Though persona non grata at first, Russia had the privilege of launching the first core component of the ISS on November 20, 1998, the anniversary we are celebrating today. The Zarya Functional Cargo Block is still up there, still being used, forming the gateway to the Russian side of the station.

One month later, Space Shuttle Endeavour took off from Launch Complex 39A (we’ve been there) carrying Unity Node 1. This too is up there now, attached since that day to Zarya.

2000: The first of many long-term occupants arrive

From left: Shepherd, Gidzenko and Krikalev, aboard the station.

Almost exactly a year after Zarya went up, the first astronauts took up residence on the ISS — the first of 230 people so far to call the orbiting structure home. Bill Shepherd was NASA’s first representative, flying with cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev; they would stay for about 141 days.

2003: Columbia disaster delays expansion

The fatal breakup of Space Shuttle Columbia on reentry following its 28th mission was tragedy enough that other shuttle missions were scrubbed for over two years. As these were the primary means of the U.S. adding to and maintaining the ISS, this responsibility passed to Roscosmos until shuttle launches resumed in 2005; crewed launches wouldn’t resume until mid-2006.

2007: Kibo goes up

Numerous modules have been added to the ISS over the years, but Japan’s Kibo is the largest. It took multiple missions to deliver all the pieces, and was only made possible by earlier missions that had expanded the solar power capacity of the station. Kibo contains a ton of reconfigurable space accessible from the pressurized interior, and has been popular for both private and public experiments that must be conducted in space.

2010: Enter the Cupola

If Kibo is the largest component, the Cupola is likely the most famous. The giant 7-window bubble looks like something out of science fiction (specifically, the front end of the Millennium Falcon) and is the location for the station’s most striking photography, both inside and out.

2014: Beautiful timelapses

With the Cupola in place, capturing imagery of the Earth from this amazing view became easier — especially with the increasingly high-quality digital cameras brought aboard by talented astronaut-photographers like Alexander Gerst and Don Pettit. The many, many photos taken out of this aperture have been formed into innumerable beautiful timelapses and desktop backgrounds, as well as witnessing incredible phenomena like aurora and lightning storms from a new and valuable perspective. It’s hard to pick just one, but Don Pettit’s “The World Outside My Window” above is a fabulous example, and Gerst’s 4K compilation is another.

2015: Gennady Padalka sets time in space record

During his fifth flight to space, Gennady Padalka set a world record for most time in space: When he returned to Earth he had logged a total of 878 days and change. That’s well ahead of the competition, which is almost exclusively Russian — though NASA’s Peggy Whitson is right up there with 666 days over three missions.

2016: Chinese station calling ISS, please pick up

It’s hardly crowded in space, but it can get lonely up there. So it’s nice that those who have the honor to fly reach out to each other. In this case China’s taikonaut Jing Haipeng recorded a heartwarming video message from the Chinese Tiangong-2 space station greeting the incoming ISS crew and praising the community of global cooperation that makes all this possible.

2018: Soyuz accident threatens long-term occupation

A crewed mission to the ISS with astronaut Nick Hague and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin encountered a serious fault during launch, fortunately resulting in no injuries or fatalities but shaking up the space community. The Soyuz rocket and capsule had more than proven themselves over the years but no risks could be taken with human life, and future missions were delayed. It was possible that for the first time since it was first entered, the ISS would be empty as its crew left with no replacements on the way.

Fortunately the investigation has concluded and a new mission is planned for early December, which will prevent such an historic absence.

2019? First commercial crew mission and beyond

Russia has borne sole responsibility for all crewed launches for years; the U.S. has been planning to separate itself from this dependence by fostering a new generation of crew-capable capsules that can meet and exceed the safety and reliability of the Soyuz system. SpaceX and Boeing both plan 2019 flights for their respective Crew Dragon and Starliner capsules — though slipping dates and new regulatory attention may delay those further.

The ISS has a bright future despite its remarkable 20 years of continuous operation. It’s funded more or less through 2025, but there’s talk of new space stations from Russia and China both, while the U.S. eyes lunar orbit for its next big endeavor. It’s hard to imagine space now without an ISS full of people in it, however, and falling launch costs may mean that its life can be extended even further and for less cost. Here’s hoping the ISS has another two decades in front of it.

HPE and NASA make supercomputer on ISS available for experiments

Last year, HPE successfully built and installed a supercomputer on the International Space Station that could withstand the rigors of being in space. Today, the company announced that it is making that computer available for earth-based developers and scientists to conduct experiments. Mark Fernandez, who has the lofty title of America’s HPC Technology Officer at […]

Last year, HPE successfully built and installed a supercomputer on the International Space Station that could withstand the rigors of being in space. Today, the company announced that it is making that computer available for earth-based developers and scientists to conduct experiments.

Mark Fernandez, who has the lofty title of America’s HPC Technology Officer at HPE, says that the project was born with the idea that if we eventually go to Mars, we will need computers that can withstand the travel conditions of being in space for extended periods of time.

What’s more, because space computers have traditionally lacked the sophistication of earth-based computers, they conduct some of the work in space and then complete the calculations on earth. With an eye toward a Mars trip, this approach would not be feasible due to the distances and latency that would be involved. They needed a computer that could handle processing at the edge (in place) without sending data back to earth.

The original idea was to build a supercomputer with the state of the art off-the-shelf parts as and install it on the ISS as an experiment to see if this could work. They built the one teraflop computer in the summer of 2017 and launched it into space on a SpaceX rocket. The computer was built with Intel Broadwell processors, which Fernandez says were the best available at the time.

The first step was to see if the computer they built could handle the launch, the cold temperatures of waiting to be on-boarded, the solar radiation and generally uncommon conditions of being in space.

Once installed, they needed to figure out if this computer could operate in the power and cooling environment available onboard the ISS, which is not close to what you would have in earth-based datacenter with a highly controlled environment. Finally, once installed, would the computer operate correctly and give accurate answers.

The special sauce here was a package of software they call Hardened with Software. “We wrote a thin, lightweight way suite of software to quote-unquote, harden our systems of software, so you can take state of the art with you,” he said.

The computer was launched in August 2017 and has been operating ever since, and Fernandez says that it has worked according to plan. “So we’ve achieved our signed, dated and contracted mission. We have a one teraflop supercomputer on board the International Space Station with Intel Broadwell processors.” He says that supercomputer has flown around the earth 6000 times since launch.

The company now wants to open this computer up as a kind of service to earth-based developers and scientists to experiment with high-latency jobs that would have required some processing on earth. With the HPE Spaceborne Computer available to use, they can see what processing this information at the edge would be like (and if it would work). The computer will be in operation until some time next year, and in the meantime interested parties need to apply to HPE and NASA to get involved.

NASA plans ‘on schedule’ Soyuz launch despite failure of Russian rocket

The high-profile failure of a normally reliable Soyuz rocket during a crewed mission to the International Space Station earlier this week spooked the space community in more ways than one, but NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said he expects to launch a new crew in December via Soyuz anyway.

The high-profile failure of a normally reliable Soyuz rocket during a crewed mission to the International Space Station earlier this week spooked the space community in more ways than one, but NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said he expects to launch a new crew in December via Soyuz anyway.

Speaking to reporters at the US embassy in Moscow (as reported by the AFP), Bridenstine observed that “not every mission that fails ends up so successful.” and indeed the malfunctioning rocket very fortunately did not cause any loss of life, as the escape system built into the launch hardware functioned as designed.

Astronaut Nick Hague and cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin landed safely some 250 miles away from the launch site after the capsule detached about 90 seconds into launch and deployed its parachute.

Although it’s too early for investigators to tell what went wrong, Bridenstine is apparently confident enough in the Soyuz system and the team at Roscosmos that he indicated a new crewed capsule could go up before the end of the year.

“I fully anticipate that we will fly again on a Soyuz rocket and I have no reason to believe at this point that it will not be on schedule,” he said.

That mission would be in December, meaning the current 3-person crew aboard the ISS wouldn’t have to extend their stay (as some thought they might), nor would the ISS have to fly empty for any period of time. The latter possibility made many uneasy, as the ISS is designed to be able to fly solo for a while, but it would be risky to have no one there in case of problems, and many experiments could also fail.

The Soyuz launch system is the only one currently available to send humans to space. SpaceX and Boeing are working hard on changing that but their solutions are a long way from ready. If some serious flaw were to be found in the Soyuz system it would essentially maroon humanity on the Earth until a solution is found. Fortunately Soyuz has proven itself many times over and it’s more likely that it will fly again soon.

Bridenstine’s confidence doesn’t launch a rocket on its own of course — the investigation of the rocket failure continues and the two space agencies will have to negotiate how to put a new crew in the station ahead of the original schedule. But for now it sounds like space will remain in our reach.

NASA plans ‘on schedule’ Soyuz launch despite failure of Russian rocket

The high-profile failure of a normally reliable Soyuz rocket during a crewed mission to the International Space Station earlier this week spooked the space community in more ways than one, but NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said he expects to launch a new crew in December via Soyuz anyway.

The high-profile failure of a normally reliable Soyuz rocket during a crewed mission to the International Space Station earlier this week spooked the space community in more ways than one, but NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said he expects to launch a new crew in December via Soyuz anyway.

Speaking to reporters at the US embassy in Moscow (as reported by the AFP), Bridenstine observed that “not every mission that fails ends up so successful.” and indeed the malfunctioning rocket very fortunately did not cause any loss of life, as the escape system built into the launch hardware functioned as designed.

Astronaut Nick Hague and cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin landed safely some 250 miles away from the launch site after the capsule detached about 90 seconds into launch and deployed its parachute.

Although it’s too early for investigators to tell what went wrong, Bridenstine is apparently confident enough in the Soyuz system and the team at Roscosmos that he indicated a new crewed capsule could go up before the end of the year.

“I fully anticipate that we will fly again on a Soyuz rocket and I have no reason to believe at this point that it will not be on schedule,” he said.

That mission would be in December, meaning the current 3-person crew aboard the ISS wouldn’t have to extend their stay (as some thought they might), nor would the ISS have to fly empty for any period of time. The latter possibility made many uneasy, as the ISS is designed to be able to fly solo for a while, but it would be risky to have no one there in case of problems, and many experiments could also fail.

The Soyuz launch system is the only one currently available to send humans to space. SpaceX and Boeing are working hard on changing that but their solutions are a long way from ready. If some serious flaw were to be found in the Soyuz system it would essentially maroon humanity on the Earth until a solution is found. Fortunately Soyuz has proven itself many times over and it’s more likely that it will fly again soon.

Bridenstine’s confidence doesn’t launch a rocket on its own of course — the investigation of the rocket failure continues and the two space agencies will have to negotiate how to put a new crew in the station ahead of the original schedule. But for now it sounds like space will remain in our reach.

Weed in space is going to be a thing now

Scientists interested in cannabis as a subject for pharmaceutical studies may find an unlikely new home for their research into the plant, its byproducts and biochemistry aboard the International Space Station. Yes, weed is going to space thanks to the work of a small Lexington, Ky.-based startup called Space Tango. The company makes a “clean […]

Scientists interested in cannabis as a subject for pharmaceutical studies may find an unlikely new home for their research into the plant, its byproducts and biochemistry aboard the International Space Station.

Yes, weed is going to space thanks to the work of a small Lexington, Ky.-based startup called Space Tango.

The company makes a “clean room” laboratory in a microwave-sized box. Because space is tight on the International Space Station, companies that want to conduct experiments in microgravity have to do more with less. And Space Tango gives them a small environment in which to perform tests and monitor the results.

Using Space Tango’s “CubeLab” modules, which slot into the larger TangoLab containers, companies like Anheuser-Busch can send barley up to the space station to observe how the crop could be cultivated in environments approaching zero gravity.

Now, Space Tango is taking its own steps to develop experiments on how the zero gravity environment could affect cannabis cultivation.

Alongside two Kentucky hemp and cannabis cultivation and retail companies, Atalo Holdings, which provides hemp genetics, and Anavii Market, an online retailer of hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) therapeutics, Space Tango has set up its own subsidiary to research how microgravity can be used to better cultivate particular strands of hemp for medical compounds.

“For all entrepreneurial companies in this new space area everyone is trying to hone in [sic] on what is the actual business,” said co-founder and chairman Kris Kimel of Space Tango, in an interview. “We’re trying to figure out here what’s the business now… For us, the model is looking at low earth orbit to actually develop and design applications for life on earth.”

Kimel said the company now has two micro-laboratories installed on the International Space Station and has payloads launching to the space station for corporate and university customers about six times a year.

In its early stages, the company is mainly operating on existing income. “We’re able to meet our operating expenses off of revenue,” says Kimel. “Which is great for a company that is not just three years old.”

As it looks to create these kinds of joint ventures with other companies, Kimel said that additional revenue could come from a profit-sharing agreement rather than just straight contracts for services. The new subsidiaries enhance what the company sees as its broader mission, Kimel said.

“Each time a new type of physics platform has been successfully harnessed such as electromagnetism, it has led to the exponential growth of new knowledge, benefits to humankind and capital formation,” said  Kimel, in a statement. “Using microgravity, we envision a future where many of the next breakthroughs in healthcare, plant biology and technology may well occur off the planet Earth.”

Industrialized hemp production and research and development into the crop was enabled four years ago with the passage of the 2014 U.S. Farm Bill. It was the first time in 70 years that new rules were enacted to promote research into applications for the hemp plant as fiber, food or medicine.

By taking the plants to space, Space Tango hopes to study whether the growth of certain strains can be better controlled in the absence of gravitational stresses on the plant’s development.

“When plants are ‘stressed,’ they pull from a genetic reservoir to produce compounds that allow them to adapt and survive,” said Dr. Joe Chappell, a member of the Space Tango Science Advisory Team who specializes in drug development and design. “Understanding how plants react in an environment where the traditional stress of gravity is removed can provide new insights into how adaptations come about and how researchers might take advantage of such changes for the discovery of new characteristics, traits, biomedical applications and efficacy.”

Founded by former NASA engineer Twyman Clements and Kimel, who was serving as the president of the nonprofit Kentucky Science and Technology Corp., Space Tango was spun up to be the for-profit arm that would commercialize experiments in space as a service for large businesses that wanted to take advantage of the unique properties of manufacturing in microgravity.

There have been few commercially viable products that have come from microgravity research or production, in part because it’s expensive to bring products from space to earth.

That’s why Space Tango has focused on drug discovery and pharmaceuticals and why the company is spinning up its independent subsidiary that will focus exclusively on cannabis. Pharmaceutical compounds are lightweight and can be profitable in production without enormous volumes.

“That’s why biomedicine is attractive,” Kimel said. “You’re dealing with products that are incredibly high value and incredibly low weight.”

NASA names first astronauts for the inaugural commercial flights to the ISS

NASA has announced the names of the first astronauts who’ll fly to the International Space Station on American-made, commercial spacecraft. The crews will fly to the space station on rockets built by NASA commercial partners Boeing and SpaceX. “Today, our country’s dreams of greater achievements in space are within our grasp,” said NASA administrator Jim […]

NASA has announced the names of the first astronauts who’ll fly to the International Space Station on American-made, commercial spacecraft.

The crews will fly to the space station on rockets built by NASA commercial partners Boeing and SpaceX. “Today, our country’s dreams of greater achievements in space are within our grasp,” said NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, in a statement. “Today’s announcement advances our great American vision and strengthens the nation’s leadership in space.”

Nine astronauts were selected to crew the first test flights and missions of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon. 

“The men and women we assign to these first flights are at the forefront of this exciting new time for human spaceflight,” said Mark Geyer, director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, in a statement.

After each company completes their crewed test flights successfully, NASA will start the process to finally certify the spacecraft and systems for regular crew missions to the space station.

So far, NASA has contracted for six missions with each company, with as many as four astronauts crewing each commercial spacecraft.

In the 18 years that NASA has had a presence on the space station, the space agency has conducted experiments in biology, biotechnology, physics and space science that have resulted in thousands of spin-off technologies, the agency said.

With the new spaceflight capabilities through Boeing and SpaceX (initially), NASA says it will maintain a crew of seven astronauts on the space station for continued scientific research and experimentation on understanding and mitigating the challenges of long-duration spaceflight.

Here are the astronauts who will be taking flight:

Starliner Test-Flight Astronauts

Eric Boe/ Photo courtesy of NASA

Eric Boe: The Miami-born and Atlanta-raised Boe came to NASA from the Air Force, where he rose to the rank of colonel as a fighter pilot and test pilot. Boe was first selected as an astronaut in 2000 and piloted the space shuttle Endeavor. Boe was also on the final flight of the Discovery before the Space Shuttle Program was sunset.

Christopher Ferguson/Photo by Robin Marchant/FilmMagic

Christopher Ferguson: A retired Navy captain who hails from Philadelphia, Ferguson piloted space shuttle Atlantis, and commanded the shuttle Endeavour. Ferguson was on the Atlantis for its final flight with the Space Shuttle Program.

Nicole Aunapu Mann/ Photo courtesy of NASA

Nicole Aunapu Mann: A lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps, Nicole Aunapu Mann is an F/A-18 test pilot with more than 2,500 flight hours in more than 25 aircraft and was selected to be an astronaut in 2013. The test flight with Boeing will be her first trip to space.

The Starliner will launch aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, according to a NASA statement.

Crew Dragon Test-Flight Astronauts

Robert Behnken/Photo courtesy of NASA

Robert Behnken: Missouri native Robert Behnken has a doctorate in engineering and is a flight test engineer and colonel in the Air Force. Behnken first joined the astronaut corps in 2000 and flew aboard space shuttle Endeavour twice, performing six spacewalks that totaled 37 hours.

Douglas Hurley/ Photo courtesy of NASA

Douglas Hurley: Douglas Hurley joined the Marine Corps and served as a test pilot before joining NASA in 2000. The Apalachin, N.Y. native piloted both the space shuttle Endeavor and Atlantis.

According to NASA, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon will launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Starliner First-Mission Astronauts

Josh Cassada/Photo courtesy NASA

Josh Cassada: From his home in Minnesota to a career in the Navy, commander and test pilot Josh Cassada has spent more than 3,500 flight hours in more than 40 aircraft. He was selected as an astronaut in 2013. His Starliner mission will be his first spaceflight.

Sunita Williams/Photo courtesy of NASA

Sunita Williams: A Needham, Mass. by-way-of Euclid, Ohio naval test pilot, Williams was a captain in the Navy before her retirement. She was selected as an astronaut in 1998 and has spent 322 days on the International Space Station. Williams commanded the space station and has also performed seven spacewalks.

Crew Dragon First-Mission Astronauts

Victor Glover/ Photo courtesy NASA

Victor Glover: Pomona, Calif.-born Victor Glover is a Navy commander, aviator and test pilot who has flown more than 3,000 hours in more than 40 different aircraft. With 24 combat missions and 400 carrier landings, Glover was selected as part of the 2013 astronaut candidate class and will be making his first spaceflight aboard the Dragon.

Michael Hopkins/ Photo courtesy NASA

Michael Hopkins: A former farm boy who grew up near Richland, Mo., Michael Hopkins went on to be a colonel in the air force where he was a flight-test engineer before being selected to be a NASA astronaut in 2009. Hopkins spent 166 days on the International Space Station and has been on two space walks.

NASA said that additional crew members would be assigned by international partners at a later date.