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SpaceX and Boeing, which are partnering with NASA, will first launch test flights, then regular missions.

"This is a big deal for our country, and we want America to know we're back".

The aviation companies will be conducting test flights at the end of this year and next, and astronauts will leave for the worldwide space station Cape Canaveral in Florida next spring or summer.

Boeing's first Starliner crew will include a former NASA astronaut who commanded the last shuttle flight in 2011, Chris Ferguson, who is now a Boeing employee.

NASA has spent billions developing the Space Launch System and its first flight, scheduled for 2020, will send an uncrewed capsule around the moon and back.

In any case, SpaceX is now the presumed leader of the race to capture the flag left on the station by the final space shuttle crew-a flag that has been waiting to return to Earth for eight years and counting. SpaceX says their test flight will happen this November, while Boeing is now targeting late 2018 or early 2019. "The result is that we'll have a better and safer spacecraft", he said.

NASA has unveiled the first astronaut crews to fly on private spaceships built by SpaceX and Boeing.

The team is split into two parts, with each group specializing in one of the spacecraft: Boeing's CST-100 Starliner or SpaceX's Dragon.

Boeing has since identified the problem he said, and is working to fix it. From left to right: Sunita Williams, Josh Cassada, Eric Boe, Nicole Mann, Christopher Ferguson, Douglas Hurley, Robert Behnken, Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover.

As for being the only non-NASA guy on board, Ferguson explained later during a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" program that Boeing always uses company test pilots for first flights "and the Starliner is no exception". The space agency's current arrangement with Russian Federation for Soyuz seats is set to run out in January 2020, a date that has already been stretched by extending upcoming ISS expeditions beyond six months.

SpaceX later confirmed a successful splashdown, concluding the company's 15th resupply mission to the space station under the space transport company's more than $3 billion, 20-launch cargo contract with NASA.

Both vehicles will launch from Florida - Boeing's Starliner, boosted by a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rockets, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and SpaceX's Dragon from pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center.

NASA contracted both companies to shuttle astronauts to and from the International Space Station following the retirement of the space shuttle fleet in 2011. This will be his first spaceflight. Similarly, the first Starliner is being now being outfitted for launch at Kennedy Space Center, and the test flight's Atlas V Centaur upper stage-never flown in the dual-engine configuration-ships to Florida in August.

The first SpaceX mission to the ISS will be manned by Victor Glover, another newbie, and Mike Hopkins, who has already spent 166 days on the sky-high lab during two tours of duty. NASA plans the first crewed test for April 2019. She has logged 322 days in space.

NASA's continuous presence on the space station for nearly 18 years has enabled technology demonstrations and research in biology and biotechnology, Earth and space science, human health, physical sciences.


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