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NASA Chooses Astronaut Sunita Williams Among Nine For Human Spaceflight

Press Release

Astronaut Sunita Williams is among nine astronauts selected by NASA Aug. 3 for its first human spaceflight program since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011.

The astronauts will fly on a spacecraft developed by SpaceX and Boeing as part of the U.S. space agency's Commercial Crew Program to send humans to the International Space Station on private U.S. spacecraft.

Williams has been named for the Boeing program to the ISS. The first test flight is scheduled to take place in mid-2019.

"For the first time since 2011, we are on the brink of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil," NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said while announcing the astronauts selected for the program.

In 2014, Boeing and SpaceX were awarded a combined $6.8 billion in contracts from NASA to develop spacecraft capable of flying crews to the space station, The Washington Post reported.

NASA Aug. 2 confirmed delays in the first piloted flights of the Boeing and SpaceX spacecrafts.

SpaceX is targeting November 2018 for Crew Dragon's first un-crewed demonstration mission (Demo-1), three months later than the previous schedule released by NASA earlier this year. The crewed demonstration flight, which will have two astronauts on board, will follow in April 2019, four months later than previously announced.

Boeing's CST-100 Starliner will likely perform two crucial test flights next year, instead of this year as previously planned. 

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. 

The crews for Boeing's Crew Flight Test and SpaceX's Demo-2 flights will each include at least a flight commander and pilot to test the systems.

After the successful completion of the flight tests with crews, NASA will review flight data to verify the systems meet the agency's safety and performance certification requirements and are ready to begin regular servicing missions to the space station, the space agency said.

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