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NASA, SpaceX add astronauts to Crew Dragon’s first operational flight

Flight slated for second half of 2020

This undated photo made available by SpaceX in February 2020 shows the Crew Dragon spacecraft undergoing acoustic testing in Florida. On Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020, SpaceX announced it is working with Space Adventures Inc. to take tourists into a high orbit. Ticket prices aren't being divulged but are likely to be in the millions of dollars. (SpaceX via AP)
This undated photo made available by SpaceX in February 2020 shows the Crew Dragon spacecraft undergoing acoustic testing in Florida. On Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020, SpaceX announced it is working with Space Adventures Inc. to take tourists into a high orbit. Ticket prices aren't being divulged but are likely to be in the millions of dollars. (SpaceX via AP)

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – NASA has added two astronauts to the crew manifest of SpaceX's first operational mission to the International Space Station, a flight slated to launch only after the company demonstrates the capsule's ability to safely take crews to orbit.

NASA astronaut Shannon Walker, a former 163-day resident of the ISS in 2010, will fly with previously selected astronauts Mike Hopkins and Victor Glover on Crew Dragon’s first operational flight, according to News 6 news partner Florida Today. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, astronaut Soichi Noguchi will also join the crew.

That first full operational mission is slated to last about six months after it lifts off from Kennedy Space Center's pad 39A sometime in the second half of this year.

Walker began her NASA career at Johnson Space Center in Houston before her 2010 flight to the ISS on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. This will mark the third spaceflight for Noguchi, who flew on the space shuttle in 2005 and a Soyuz in 2009.

But to clear the way for the four-person crew to fly, SpaceX must first demonstrate Crew Dragon's safety with Demo-2, its test mission with astronauts. The company in 2019 launched the capsule on an automated test flight to the ISS, which saw a successful launch, docking, departure, and splashdown off the Florida coast.

Astronauts Bob Behnken and Dough Hurley will fly on that test mission to the ISS, tentatively slated for mid-to-late May. It remains to be seen how the coronavirus pandemic will impact the mission, as many of NASA’s centers are either closed or operating at mission-critical statuses. SpaceX, however, can operate with its own policies surrounding the pandemic.