During the manned tests, the astronauts will be able to use the displays inside the spacecraft, communicate with mission control and practise manual controls during flight. As part of the Commercial Crew Program's public-private partnership, both companies are fine-tuning their designs, integrating hardware, and testing their crew spacecraft and rockets to prepare for test flights.
The Crew Dragon and Starliner will drive the American astronauts on the American-made spaceship from American soil to the ISS for the foremost instance since NASA withdrew its Space Shuttle Program in 2011.
Four of the eight astronauts will nearly certainly be Bob Behnken, Eric Boe, Doug Hurley, and Sunita "Suni" Williams. In its report, the GAO said NASA's projected "average" certification date for Boeing was December 2019, and January 2020 for SpaceX, with the potential for both companies to slip well into 2020.
"This was above and beyond the NASA requirement in the contract", said Kathy Lueders, Commercial Crew Program manager at NASA Kennedy. If something goes wrong at any point during a Crew Dragon flight, these engines can fire up and carry the spacecraft and its passengers to safety.
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No launch date has been set for NASA's satellite fix demonstration, but the mission is expected to happen between 2020 and 2022.
On Friday, the space agency plans to announce crews for the first flights of SpaceX's Crew Dragon and Boeing's CST-100 Starliner.
SpaceX said it would fly crews by April.
Boeing had planned to start with the pad abort test, which would make use of a "pusher" rocket system created to throw the capsule clear of its launch vehicle in the event of an emergency. The latter test demonstrated Crew Dragon's ability to land safely in an off-nominal situation, deploying only one of the system's two drogue parachutes and three of the four main parachutes. The spacecraft will dock and undock autonomously to the space station before flying their crew back to Earth.
Mulholland added that he has no "visibility into SpaceX progress or the fidelity of the SpaceX schedule", and that they only focus on making "sure we do everything we can to ensure a safe vehicle and meeting the schedule parameters that I've laid out". 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.
The other four astronauts that NASA has selected, however, aren't yet publicly known.