Astronauts will launch into space from U.S. soil next year, says NASA

NASA Administrator told reporters that his agency "without question" will be launching crewed missions from Cape Canaveral to the International Space Station by the middle of next year.
By Rick Docksai | Jan 18, 2019
NASA is on track to send its first crewed mission into space from a U.S. launch pad by mid-2019, said NASA Administrator James Bridenstine. He said that his space agency and private company SpaceX expect to launch a test flight of a crewed space vehicle from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in April 2019, and launch more astronauts in a test flight of a Boeing-made vehicle soon after.

"Without question, by the middle of next year, we'll be flying American astronauts on American rockets from American soil," he said in a one-on-one interview at NASA headquarters. "We'reso close."

SpaceX and Boeing have been developing vehicles under the aegis of NASA's Commerical Crew Program. Their vehicles will replace the space shuttle, which NASA retired from service in 2011.

The Commercial Crew program began during the Obama administration, who intended to have new vehicles ready by 2015. Inadequate funding from the Republican-controlled Congress resulted in repeated delays that pushed back the launch date to 2017 and eventually to 2019.

Bridenstine expressed confidence that the program will keep to its current launch schedule this time. The agency named test pilots for the upcoming test flights earlier this month.

Two of the pilotsNASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurleywill fly SpaceX's experimental Dragon vehicle out of the Kennedy Space Center in April 2019. Boeing's vehicle, the CST-100 Starliner, is expected to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in mid-2019 with three crew members on board: Boeing's Chris Ferguson and NASA's Eric Boe and Nicole Mann.

Both test flights will fly to the International Space Station and back. They will be the first U.S.-based transportation to the ISS, which astronauts currently can only reach by hitching rides out of Kazakhstan on Russia's Soyuz space vehicles.



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