The commercial crew program will allow expanded use of the space station. And it's now apparent that SpaceX is slightly ahead-it will conduct a crewed test flight in April of next year, while Boeing's crewed test is only scheduled for "mid-2019".
He said the announcement advances "our great American vision" and strengthens America's leadership in space. NASA retired its space shuttle fleet that year, and started sending astronauts to the International Space Station aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, at a cost of $81 million (U.S.) per seat.
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.
"As a test pilot it doesn't get any better than this", Mann told the audience, when asked about being the first to fly a new spacecraft.
The first commercial crew astronauts From left: Sunita Williams, Josh Cassada, Eric Boe, Nicole Mann, Christopher Ferguson, Douglas Hurley, Robert Behnken, Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover.
For Mann, a former F-18 test pilot with the Marines, though, this will be her first space flight.
The space agency says each post-certification flight by the CST-100 Starliner and Crew Dragon spacecraft will carry four passengers on half-year expeditions to the space station.
The commercial flights will mark the return of crew launches to the United States, which has not seen humans lift off for space since the end of the iconic space shuttle program seven years ago. Eric Boe, retired Navy Capt.
Veteran station flight engineer Mike Hopkins will be accompanied by rookie astronaut Victor Glover on the Crew Dragon's first operational flight to the station.
"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. He's spent almost 29 days in space. "I look forward, sir, to getting you down there at some point out in Hawthorne [SpaceX's California headquarters] and maybe you can sit next to us in the cockpit and go through flying the iPhone to dock to space station".
"NASA is continuing to assess multiple scenarios to ensure continued USA access to the International Space Station", the space agency told Bloomberg.
Boeing plans to do an uncrewed flight test of its CST-100 Starliner later this year or early next year.
SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell took a photo of the astronauts before assuring them, "We won't let you down".
"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", Doug Hurley said. Since her selection as an astronaut in 1998, she has spent 322 days aboard the International Space Station for Expeditions 14/15 and Expeditions 32/33, commanded the space station and performed seven spacewalks. He is a Navy commander and test pilot with more than 3,500 flight hours in more than 40 aircraft.