Sunita Williams among 9 astronauts named by NASA for first commercial flights

Indian-origin U.S. astronaut Sunita Williams is among the nine astronauts named by NASA who will fly the first missions into space on commercially provided rockets and capsules, starting next year.

After years of vehicle development and building anticipation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has now put the crew in commercial crew spacecraft. The space agency announced on Friday that the nine astronauts will launch on the first crewed test flights and missions of new commercial spacecraft built and operated by The Boeing Company and SpaceX.

“Future Commercial Crew astronauts will be riding to space on partner vehicles built by SpaceX & BoeingSpace,” NASA said in a tweet.

“We are on the brink of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine during the ‘Launch America’ announcement.

The eight active NASA astronauts and one former astronaut-turned-corporate crew member will launch on Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Dragoncapsules to the International Space Station beginning in 2019. The missions will mark the first crewed launches from U.S. soil since the end of the space shuttle programme in 2011.

“Today, our country’s dreams of greater achievements in space are within our grasp. This accomplished group of American astronauts, flying on new spacecraft developed by our commercial partners Boeing and SpaceX, will launch a new era of human spaceflight,” Bridenstine said.PTI

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