Hurrah! NASA space shuttle got retirement and now aerospace juggernaut is hard at work developing a new capsule-based spaceship to fly people to and from the International Space Station. Which will be the challenging deal with other.
The new Beoing space capsule is a project using the company's recent $18 million award from NASA to advance the concepts and technology necessary to build a commercial crew space transportation system. It is one of several efforts by different U.S. companies to come with new spaceships to fill the void left by NASA's retiring shuttles.
And so far, things have been progressing right on schedule…
Boeing's new spaceship
At the heart of Boeing's new spaceship design is the CST-100 capsule, which will look similar to the cone-shaped Apollo and Orion spacecraft.
The larger Orion vehicles were part of NASA's Constellation program to return astronauts to the moon, and are now slated to serve as a space station lifeboat.
"It's a little smaller than Orion, but a little bigger than Apollo,". "It carries seven, but it's fairly small – it's not as large or as spacious as the Orion."
The capsule is being built for short missions to the space station, meaning it will not be designed to stay in space for long periods of time.
Multiple rocket rides
Boeing plans to launch the CST-100 capsule from Florida, but has yet to determine which rocket will carry it into space.
The spacecraft is being designed for compatibility with a variety of rockets, in much the same way that commercial satellites are. This will give Boeing the flexibility to select an appropriate rocket later in the development process.
And while NASA has outlined a launch target for 2016, the new capsule could be rolled out sooner than expected, which could help fill the gap in future human spaceflight should NASA scrap its Constellation program.
Private space station ferries
NASA isn't the only customer Boeing has in mind for the CST-100. The company has teamed up with Bigelow Aerospace, a Las Vegas-based company that recently joined the Commercial Spaceflight Federation.
Bigelow Aerospace is developing private inflatable space habitats with the goal of launching a commercial space station in 2014.
Keep it affordable
For Boeing, one of their main challenges in expanding their branch of commercial spaceflight is in designing a relatively inexpensive option."The unprecedented success of the Falcon 9's inaugural launch clearly demonstrates that it's possible to dramatically reduce the cost of human spaceflight operations," " And, with months and years of demonstrations and tests on the horizon for Boeing, the company can look to the successful launch of Falcon 9 as inspiration and motivation.
"It's always good to see folks succeed in spaceflight. "It certainly provides an impetus for all commercial providers to continue working hard."