Boeing Passes Key Milestones in Development of Crew Space Transportation Capsule
According to Boeing, the Crew Space Transportation-100 capsule (CST-100) will transport crew members and cargo to low Earth orbit destinations. The CST-100 and its launch system are being developed under a Space Act Agreement with NASA's Commercial Crew Program. The first piloted orbital flight of the capsule is scheduled for 2016. The CST-100 is planned to transport crew members and cargo to low Earth orbit destinations such as the International Space Station and a planned private station operated by Bigelow Aerospace.
Before that happens, it will need to pass a Critical Design Review sometime in the autumn of this year.
Showing progress, in a press release Boeing reported two NASA astronauts for the first time evaluated communications, ergonomics and crew-interface aspects of the capsule. Serena Aunon and Randy Bresnik, wearing flight suits, worked through activities in Houston on July 22. The capsule’s interior features tablet displays as well as multicolor LED lighting pioneered on Boeing commercial airplanes.
In related press release Boeing reported that the CST-100 passed emergency water tests. Although the capsule is designed to land on the ground, Boeing engineers worked with NASA and Department of Defense search-and-recovery personnel to test several emergency water-extraction scenarios.
Fox News reports that the CST-100 capsule is similar to the Apollo capsule of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Weighing more than 26,000 lbs (11,700 kg), the vehicle is meant to ride an Atlas 5 rocket into orbit. “Boeing is currently in a race with several other companies for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, including SpaceX, which has completed two roundtrip cargo trips to the International Space Station with its vehicles and aims to certify its craft to carry human beings….NASA presently has no vehicles of its own for transporting human beings into space, since the space shuttle program was retired, instead relying on a very pricey contract with Russia for that capability.” According to the report, last year Congress approved $406 million for NASA to explore this particular program; the space agency hopes to have a capsule flying by 2017.
Boeing is one of three aerospace industry partners working with NASA's Commercial Crew Program on its Commercial Crew Integrated Capability initiative, which is intended to make commercial human spaceflight services available for government and commercial customers. The other companies listed by NASA on its Commercial Crew webpage are SpaceX, as mentioned, and the Sierra Nevada Corporation.