"NASA's Commercial Crew Program will return human spaceflight launches to USA soil, providing safe, reliable and cost-effective access to low-Earth orbit and the space station", the agency said, "on systems that meet safety and performance requirements".
It will also be the first time in history a privately-built spacecraft will dock with the International Space Station.
A look at SpaceX's first Crew Dragon spacecraft attached to its Falcon 9 rocket as both sit inside their hangar at Launch Pad 39A of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida in January 2019. The agency is counting on its commercial crew program to begin operational crew rotation flights before the end of the year.
The agency on Wednesday selected March 2 as the date for the first unmanned test flight, and an undisclosed date in July for when USA spacemen finally get shot back into orbit from American soil.
According to NASA, United Launch Alliance is finalizing processing for the Atlas V rocket that will provide the thrust for the Starliner launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's launch complex 41.
Boeing, meanwhile, is shooting for an April launch of its first Starliner capsule without a crew. Neither NASA nor SpaceX explained why they are delaying the test, but we can only assume that the 35-day shutdown of the government messed with their schedule, considering many NASA employees were not on site during the shutdown.
In mid-January, a source told Sputnik that a manned Dragon 2 mission would fly to the ISS in July 2019 with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley on board.
"We are excited about seeing the hardware we have followed through development, integration, and ground testing move into flight".
The space agency says the extra time will be used to complete necessary testing and reviews as well as train flight controllers and mission managers.
If schedules hold, the crewed launches this summer will be the first to take off from USA soil carrying humans to low-Earth orbit since the end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011.
In order to meet NASA's requirements, both SpaceX and Boeing must demonstrate an ability to safely and efficiently transport crews into space. Once they are completed, the Dragon 2 will be certified by NASA for regular flights to the space station.
If the test is successful, SpaceX will carry on with the second one which got delayed to July 2019.