Boeing’s Crew Space Transportation (CST-100) “space taxi” craft has been green-lighted by NASA for a service flight to the International Space Station (ISS) – the first time that the agency has contracted a commercial enterprise for a manned spaceflight mission.
Last fall, NASA awarded a $4.2-billion contract to Boeing Defense, Space, and Security to build and demonstrate the CST-100 as part of its Commercial Crew Program, whose goal is to resume U.S.-based flights to space by 2017. The CST-100 is designed to transport up to seven passengers or a mix of crew and cargo to the ISS and other low-Earth orbit destinations. Reportedly, it includes a “pusher abort system” to separate the CST-100 vehicle from the launch vehicle in case of a failure on take-off.
Boeing has been testing CST-100 components at NASA’s Langley (Va.) Research Center in Virginia. It said demonstrations of the system have been successful, and now are at a stage of “design maturity appropriate to proceed to assembly, integration and test activities.”
The 2014 contract guaranteed Boeing would conduct at least two and up to six service flights after completing human certification.
“We’re on track to fly in 2017, and this critical milestone moves us another step closer in fully maturing the CST-100 design,” stated John Mulholland, Boeing Space Exploration vice president for commercial programs. “Our integrated and measured approach to spacecraft design ensures quality performance, technical excellence and early risk mitigation.”
The CST-100 can transport up to seven passengers or a mix of crew and cargo to low-Earth orbit destinations like the International Space Station (ISS) and the Bigelow planned station.