5 August 2011Last updated at 11:56 ET Science correspondent, BBC New By Jonathan Amos
Boeing says two of its own employees will crew the first manned mission of its new astronaut capsule.
The US company has confirmed it will use the Atlas 5 rocket to test its CST-100 ship on three flights in 2015.
An unmanned capsule will be used on the first and second launches. On the third, Boeing test pilots will take the vessel to the space station.
The plan is dependent on a successful development programme and the availability of sufficient funding.
Boeing is one of a number of companies being encouraged by the US space agency (Nasa) to develop a commercially operated crew transport service to and from low-Earth orbit.
The idea is that Nasa and other space agencies around the world would buy seats in these vehicles to get their people to the international orbiting platform and other destinations that might one day include privately run space labs and hotels.
The Boeing Company [NYSE: BA] today announced it has selected the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket to launch the Boeing Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 spacecraft from Florida's Space Coast.
"This selection marks a major step forward in Boeing's efforts to provide NASA with a proven launch capability as part of our complete commercial crew transportation service," said John Elbon, vice president and program manager of Commercial Crew Programs and the source selection official for Boeing.
If NASA selects Boeing for a development contract with sufficient funding, ULA will provide launch services for an autonomous orbital flight, a transonic autonomous abort test launch, and a crewed launch, all in 2015.
The addition of ULA to the Boeing team enables the start of detailed design work on an integrated system for launch and spacecraft operations. The team also will refine launch abort operations that will meet NASA's stringent human rating requirements to safely transport crew and cargo to the International Space Station. Boeing conducted a best-value competition among U.S. launch service providers prior to selecting the Atlas V.
We are supporting NASA in their efforts, including optimization of the International Space Station (ISS) as a test bed and stepping stone for the challenging journey ahead. We are moving forward toward providing commercial transportation for astronauts and civilians to the ISS and other destinations in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) with our developing Commercial Crew Transportation System program. Providing safe, reliable and affordable service to LEO will enable NASA to focus energy and resources on sending astronauts beyond Earth orbit.
The road to Space Exploration is challenging but this approach puts Americans in a position to go where no human has gone before. NASA is planning a new Space Launch System to get us there and Boeing is prepared to provide its Upper Stage and Avionics elements, in development under existing contracts and now ready for manufacturing.
Spacecraft to serve as the primary crew vehicle for missions beyond low Earth orbit (LEO)
Capable of conducting regular in-space operations (rendezvous, docking, extravehicular activity) in conjunction with payloads delivered by the Space Launch System for missions beyond LEO
Capability to be a backup system for International Space Station cargo and crew delivery
Space Launch System Program
The Space Launch System (SLS) Program will develop a heavy-lift launch vehicle to expand human presence to celestial destinations beyond low Earth orbit. This launch vehicle will be capable of lifting the Orion MPCV to asteroids, the moon, Lagrange points, and ultimately for missions to Mars. It will also serve as a backup launch system for supplying and supporting the International Space Station cargo and crew requirements not met by other available launch vehicles.
The Space Launch System will be evolvable, ultimately carrying 130 metric tons of crew and cargo to low Earth orbit. The SLS vehicle design will maximize efficiency and minimize cost by leveraging investments in legacy space launch systems to the greatest extent practicable, while using evolutionary advancements in launch vehicle design.
Boeing’s Crew Space Transportation vehicle, the CST-100, will climb to orbit aboard the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket through a series of unpiloted and piloted test flights planned for 2015-16, officials from the two companies announced Aug. 4.
A series of three test flights with the Atlas V and the seven-person CST-100 capsule are planned for 2015; with sufficient funding from NASA’s Commercial Crew Development program, Boeing could be ready to begin transporting astronauts to the International Space Station aboard the reusable capsule in the first quarter of 2016 with all-NASA crews, says John Elbon, Boeing vice president and program manager of the company’s Houston-based Commercial Crew Program.
Boeing becomes the third of four companies developing a crew transportation service under the $270 million NASA CCDev-2 initiative announced earlier this year to select Centennial, Colo.-based ULA and the Atlas V for the launch component. The Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser lifting body space plane and the Blue Origin capsule are the others.
Space Exploration Technologies Corp., has naturally chosen its own Falcon 9 for crewed as well as cargo versions of its Dragon capsule.
“This is the quickest way to close the gap and get U.S. crews flying again,” Elbon told reporters during a briefing. “It’s an affordable approach that will leave NASA funding to develop capabilities for exploration beyond low Earth orbit.”
Affordable, yes, yes, affordable -- I think that is in eye of the beholder, if you have a lot of money, well fly me to the Moon, but if you don't have any money, well think about flying me to the ISS and beyond. Just keep thinking, that sounds affordable, that is, thinking or give me another report.
There I go again, being negative. Sure hope I am proven wrong.