NASA to announce first astronauts to fly SpaceX and Boeing ships

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SpaceX now has six Crew Dragon capsules at various stages of production and testing, NASA officials have said. The spacecraft recently underwent thermal vacuum and acoustic testing at NASA's Plum Brook Station in Ohio.

Here's a quick look at these private crew-carrying spaceships, SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule and Boeing's CST-100 Starliner. The first launches with astronauts on board are expected next year.

Each company must launch an uncrewed test flight and then a crewed test flight prior to certification by NASA for the vehicles to begin operational flights. Assuming that test is successful, Boeing would launch the Starliner's first crew to the space station aboard yet another Starliner, Spacecraft 2, a month later.

"I really have no visibility into SpaceX progress or the fidelity of the SpaceX schedule", he said. TESS is anticipated to send out its first string of science data in August back to Earth, and after that, from time to time every 13.5 Days, one time per orbit, as the probe makes it nearest approach to our planet. ULA is a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

"While we know there's quite a bit of interest and focus on who will fly first, NASA is more interested in both of them flying successfully", Stephanie Schierholz, a spokeswoman for the USA space agency, said Thursday.

In January, astronauts had the opportunity to train using mixed reality-a combination of real world and virtual environment-technology to practice exiting their seats in an uncommon landing situation. NASA has declined to say whether it has discussed additional Soyuz spots with Russian officials.

It is unclear when these first flights will happen. Data collected from these tests continue to improve accuracy of computer models in predicting parachute performance and verifying reliability.

These flight tests will have similar configurations to the uncrewed tests, but the crew will have the ability to interface with spacecraft displays, communicate with mission control, and practice manual controls during flight.

In May, the White Room, which astronauts will walk through just before boarding Starliner, was installed on SLC-41.

Crew Dragon is also outfitted with an emergency escape system, which consists of eight SuperDraco engines built into the capsule's walls.

The hardware for these uncrewed missions is being prepared for launch. According to Bloomberg, NASA will name the astronauts that will fly on the tests on Friday. However, NASA indicated in April that it may "operationalize" the Boeing test flight and fly three, instead of two crew. Tower modifications included l removal of the space shuttle era rotating service structure.

Last month, news broke that Starliner's launch-abort engines cut off during a test fire's cool-down phase. The company is manufacturing custom suits for each astronaut to ensure a proper fit and comfortable ride on Crew Dragon.

Read also: What's next for SpaceX? The first flights were scheduled for 2018.

In May, SpaceX completed its 16th overall parachute system test for Crew Dragon at Naval Air Facility El Centro in Southern California. "The result is that we'll have a better and safer spacecraft", he said. They will launch atop the company's Falcon 9 rockets from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, the same pad, now extensively modifiled, that was once used by shuttles and Saturn 5 moon rockets.