NASA is naming 8 astronauts to fly SpaceX and Boeing's new spaceships

NASA is naming 8 astronauts to fly SpaceX and Boeing's new spaceships - here's how to watch the announcement live

NASA confirms new timetable for space taxi flights; SpaceX to fly crew next April

"NASA's Commercial Crew Program will return human spaceflight launches to US soil, providing safe, reliable and cost-effective access to low-Earth orbit on systems that meet our safety and mission requirements", said the official blog.

NASA contracted both companies to shuttle astronauts to and from the International Space Station following the retirement of the space shuttle fleet in 2011.

In a statement released Thursday, NASA and its Commercial Crew partners revealed more details of the effort to carry astronauts from the U.S.to the International Space Station. The race to get astronauts to the space station first is real; a US flag that flew on the first space shuttle flight in 1981 and the last shuttle flight in 2011, awaits the victor.

The first Starliner post-certification mission, yet to be formally scheduled, will fly NASA astronauts Josh Cassada and Sunita Williams.

SpaceX is shooting for a test flight without passengers in November and a crew flight in April.

In attendance for the announcement will be NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, Johnson Space Center Director Mark Geyer and Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana. Just as in the past, all human launches will originate here on the space coast.

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NASA awaits the completion of both companies' test flights before certifying either safe for use to return astronauts on low-Earth-orbit missions. This will be Mann's first launch, having joined the astronaut corps in 2013.

The crew will be the first group of American astronauts to go to space from American soil since NASA retired its Space Shuttle Program in 2011. In a statement, the agency said that additional crew members for those first post-certification missions "will be assigned by NASA's global partners at a later date". Sometimes called the "Commercial Crew Cadre", those astronauts are seasoned veterans who've worked closely with Boeing and SpaceX on their new spacecraft and systems over the past three years.

SpaceX and Boeing are shooting for a test flight of their capsules by the end of this year or early next, with the first crews flying from Cape Canaveral, Florida, by next spring or summer. Hopkins logged 166 days aboard the space station in 2014. It may also include Russia, as NASA officials have discussed in the past flying Russian cosmonauts on commercial crew vehicles, possibly in exchange for seats on Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

Behnken, Boe, Hurley and Williams were named in 2015 as Nasa's "commercial crew cadre" and have been working with Boeing and SpaceX on the development of the spacecraft and the simulators that will be used to train astronauts to fly. What is not known is who gets to fly on which company's spacecraft, and on which flight they get to launch.

An artist's conception shows SpaceX's Crew Dragon spaceship docking with the International Space Station, plus a cargo-carrying version of the Dragon in the foreground.

When approved, each company is slated for six missions to the space station between 2019 and 2024, a total of 12 missions between the two companies.

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