"NASA's Commercial Crew Program will return human spaceflight launches to US soil, providing safe, reliable and cost-effective access to low-Earth orbit on systems that meet our safety and mission requirements", said the official blog. "It will be thrilling to see our astronauts lift off from American soil, and we can't wait to see them aboard the International Space Station".
"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 Friday, standing in front of a giant American flag at Johnson Space Center in Houston.
The Boeing crewed test flight, planned for mid-2019, will carry three people, including former NASA astronaut Chris Ferguson, commander of STS-135 and, for the last several years, a Boeing employee working on the Starliner program.
She was the first person to run a marathon in space, cranking out the miles on a treadmill in the space station while the Boston Marathon was being run on Earth in April 2007. That is why in 2010 NASA started accepting proposals from commercial companies that were making astronaut transportation systems.
More astronauts will be announced to join the crews at a later date, NASA said.
Josh Cassada, 45, will fly with Sunita ("Suni") Williams, 52, aboard Nasa's first contracted Starliner mission.
Boe was selected as an astronaut in 2000. Many spacecraft, including Crew Dragon and Starliner, use hypergolic propellant for abort engines because it ignites on contact and is a good choice for quickly blasting a crew capsule away from a failing rocket.
Williams has already taken two trips to the space station, commanded it, and racked up 322 days in space, second on the all-time list for female astronauts. Since then, NASA has been forced to rely exclusively on Russia's increasingly expensive Soyuz spaceships to get to the International Space Station (ISS), in which the U.S. government has invested about $100 billion. He flew on Space Shuttle Endeavour in 2008 with fellow Georgia Tech graduates Sandy Magnus and Shane Kimbrough. SpaceX is targeting November for its inaugural Crew Dragon test flight, but Boeing won't launch its passenger spacecraft Starliner until late this year or early next. It will be Cassada's first spaceflight.
Boeing has leased two of NASA's old space shuttle hangars at KSC, known as Orbiter Processing Facilities, to build its Starliners and house two small robotic X-37B space planes it built for the Air Force.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's announcement signals a milestone in the US space program, with its shift to the private sector for ferrying cargo and astronauts to the International Space Station. The Crew Dragon will launch aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
SpaceX's first crew will include naval aviator Victor Glover, also a novice to spaceflight, and shuttle veteran Michael Hopkins.
NASA is expected to announce the crew assignments for the first missions for Boeing and SpaceX this morning, according to a release from the agency. "To meet NASA's requirements, the commercial providers must demonstrate that their systems are ready to begin regular flights to the space station".