Williams was selected as an astronaut in 1998 and has spent 322 days in space over the course of two missions, including one in which she was the commander of the International Space Station.
"I'm sure there's at least one Russian-language instructor out there who thinks that having me fly in a USA vehicle is not a awful idea", quipped Cassada.
It could be the first time the nation has sent astronauts to space from US soil since 2011, when NASA retired its space shuttle Atlantis and Ferguson was the last person to step off the shuttle.
The nine astronauts - seven men and two women - waved and pumped their fists into the air as they appeared on stage to cheers from the crowd.
Williams and crew mate, Josh Cassada will fly the second flight, and first mission, of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner vehicle. NASA has signed multi-billion-dollar contracts with Boeing and SpaceX to create these manned spaceships so that it can be ready for its manned test flight to the International Space Station in April 2019.
A recent mission abort by Boeing resulted from leaking engine fuel, and United States astronauts have until now taken Russian Federation capsules to the space station - at a cost of up to $82m for a seat.
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Boeing's first Starliner crew will include a former NASA astronaut who commanded the last shuttle flight in 2011, Chris Ferguson, who's now a Boeing employee. NASA has worked closely with the companies throughout design, development and testing to ensure the systems meet NASA's safety and performance requirements.
For SpaceX's Crew Dragon, the uncrewed mission has been designated Demo-1, and it will take off with the help of a Falcon 9 rocket from Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
NASA is now assigning crew members to these test missions, and will work with both companies and the Eastern range to clear launch dates that will allow all science investigations and other operations on the ISS will not be interrupted. He will be joined by Victor Glover, a Navy commander who will be making his first trip into space. NASA now has a contract to use the Russian Soyuz spacecraft that expires on November 2019, and the agency plans to use Boeing or SpaceX to fill the gap. Ferguson, the Boeing astronaut, flew three shuttle missions, and has logged more than 40 days in space.
NASA says commercial transportation to and from the space stations will enable expanded station use, additional research time and broader opportunities of discovery aboard the orbiting laboratory.
The Crew Dragon missions will pave the way for SpaceX's more ambitious projects, like sending the first humans to Mars as early as 2024. Success in these missions means that the Boeing and SpaceX spacecraft could start regular servicing missions to the ISS. Glover was selected by NASA in 2013, and his mission with SpaceX will mark his first time in space.