New astronaut launch vehicle unveiled by Boeing

New astronaut launch vehicle unveiled by Boeing

CST-100 capsule could end American reliance on Russian vehicles.


Inside what was once a repair shop for space shuttles, Boeing unveiled a mockup of a space vehicle that the company hopes will soon launch American astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).

The reveal comes less than two weeks after SpaceX displayed its own Dragon capsule. Boeing, SpaceX, and Sierra Nevada, which is building a mini-shuttle, are all hoping to win a NASA contract to transport astronauts to the ISS beginning in 2017. Boeing plans to construct its CST-100 vehicle and test it in the machine shop of the Kennedy Space Center, where viewers got their first look at the new design.

U.S. Senator, Bill Nelson, who climbed into the mockup vehicle, said commercial efforts to build a new American space vehicle are proof of a successful public-private partnership. That partnership marks the beginning of “a whole new era in space flight,” Nelson emphasized.

The CST-100 can seat a crew of seven astronauts. Two of the seats were occupied by dummies wearing orange pressure suits to look like astronauts. All seven black seats are equipped with tablet computers and an overhead display. Along with blue inside lighting, the CST-100 also has room for small cargo packages. The vehicle is capable of docking and attaching itself to the ISS.

Boeing hopes to launch the new vehicle on top of United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Atlas V rocket. The vehicle will arrive at the ISS only six hours after launch. ULA plans to build an access tower at Launch Complex 41 to support manned missions. A model of the tower was displayed along with the mockup capsule.

NASA will award a contract to one of the three companies currently pioneering new space vehicles in August or September of this year. If Boeing wins the contract, the company plans to launch an unmanned test flight in mid-2017 and a manned flight to the ISS later that year.

Construction of the CST-100 could create as many as 550 jobs at the Kennedy Space Center in both the machine shop and in a formal orbiter hangar. Florida plans to publicly fund the renovations of both sites.

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