Sunita Williams among 9 astronauts relaunching US space travel

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Since NASA's space shuttle program was shut down in 2011, it has had to rely on Russian Federation to fly astronauts to the space station. "We congratulate all the astronauts chosen to fly to the space station on commercially developed systems".

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. Boeing will launch its CST-100 Starliner on top of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Base, also in Florida.

"The 7,000 women and men of SpaceX understand what a sacred honor it was for us to be part of this program and for us to fly you", Shotwell told the astronaut crews.

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The nine astronauts, most with previous experience in orbit, will ride the SpaceX Dragon and Boeing Starliner capsules to the International Space Station.

On board Starliner's first mission will be NASA veteran Sunita Williams, a retired Navy captain and experienced space shuttle astronaut, and Josh Cassada, a Navy pilot making his first flight to space.

"For the first time since 2011, we are on the brink of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil", Bridenstine said. Ferguson, a former NASA astronaut and space shuttle commander, is Boeing's director of crew and mission systems. NPR reports that some critics think the SLS is too expensive compared to industry developments like SpaceX's Falcon Heavy.

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While NASA didn't require uncrewed flight tests, both companies will be shooting them off to the ISS anyway, because you can never be too positive things won't glitch once you're 1,200 miles beyond Earth's atmosphere. Mann will also make history as the first female astronaut on the inaugural crewed flight of a new USA spacecraft. The four other commercial crew members are still with NASA. For the seven years since then, NASA has relied on Russia's pricey Soyuz spacecraft to ferry American astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).

For Boeing, who develops the Starliner capsule, two experienced pilots will be participating in the test flights: Eric Boe, 53, Christopher Ferguson, 56. SpaceX says their test flight will happen this November, while Boeing is now targeting late 2018 or early 2019. If successful, the crewed flight tests will follow hopefully leading to NASA certifications for crew rotation missions.

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.

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Maintaining the International Space Station costs the federal government up to $4 billion a year, and NASA is working on plans to privatize it. He has logged more than 40 days in space across three space shuttle missions. Her first was a space shuttle mission that launched in 2007, and the second was a Soyuz-launched mission in 2012. Glover was selected by NASA in 2013, and his mission with SpaceX will mark his first time in space.

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