UAE could partner with firms for commercial space flights

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Boeing's second Starliner launch and first bona-fide NASA mission will send astronauts John Cassada and Suni Williams to the ISS. "We congratulate all the astronauts chosen to fly to the space station on commercially developed systems".

SpaceX is first to conduct its test flight of spacecraft in a bid to meet NASA's requirement to transport US astronauts to the International Space Station.

American space, at a ceremony to present the nine astronauts (seven men and two women) from Houston, Texas.

Boeing's first crewed Starliner test flight will be flown by NASA astronauts Eric Boe and Nicole Aunapu Mann and Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson in mid-2019.

Top row, left to right: NASA Astronauts Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins; bottom row, left to right: NASA Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.

Since the shuttle was retired seven years ago, US astronauts have had to fly on Russian rockets from a remote launch site in Kazakhstan.

SpaceX's crew for the long-duration mission will include naval aviator Victor Glover, also a novice to spaceflight, and shuttle veteran Michael Hopkins. NPR reports that some critics think the SLS is too expensive compared to industry developments like SpaceX's Falcon Heavy.

Since her selection as an astronaut in 1998, she has spent 322 days aboard the International Space Station (ISS) for Expeditions 14/15 and Expeditions 32/33, commanded the space station and performed seven spacewalks, the United States space agency said in a statement.

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SpaceX will fly an uncrewed test flight in November 2018 and another with astronauts on board in April 2019. He is a retired Navy captain, who piloted space shuttle Atlantis for STS-115, and commanded shuttle Endeavour on STS-126 and Atlantis for the final flight of the Space Shuttle Program, STS-135. It will mark Mann's first trip to space.

"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", Mr. Geyer said.

By handing off crew and cargo runs to the space station - which will keep orbiting until at least 2024 - NASA has set its sight on the moon and Mars, developing the Orion capsule and the massive Space Launch System rocket.

For Boeing, who develops the Starliner capsule, two experienced pilots will be participating in the test flights: Eric Boe, 53, Christopher Ferguson, 56.

NASA has officially announced the scheduled test flights for SpaceX and Boeing under the agency's Commercial Crew Program. As it stands now, SpaceX currently holds the contract with NASA to do 12 robotic supply flights to the station for a minimum amount of $1.6 billion. The cargo missions started in 2012.

Boeing's and SpaceX's commercial spacecraft may also open the space station - and more broadly, Earth orbit - to more privately-funded visitors and spaceflight participants from countries that do not have their own domestic crewed spacecraft and rockets.

Cassada, a Navy commander and test pilot, joined the astronaut corps in 2013; the launch will be his first. By naming crews, NASA is signaling its belief that these astronauts will fly sometime soon.

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