Friday, May 29, 2015

Boeing Awarded First Commercial Human Spaceflight Mission

Credit: NASA

NASA issued a task order as part of Boeing’s $4.2 billion Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contract recently to include the company’s first-ever service flight to the International Space Station. The award marks the first time in human spaceflight history NASA has contracted with a commercial company for a human spaceflight mission. “This occasion will go in the books of Boeing’s nearly 100 years of aerospace and more than 50 years of space flight history,” said John Elbon, vice president and general manager of Boeing’s Space Exploration division. “We look forward to ushering in a new era in human space exploration.”

Boeing was selected in September 2014 to build and fly the United States’ next passenger spacecraft, the Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100. The Commercial Crew Transportation System (CCTS) is being developed in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program which aims to resume U.S.-based flights to space by 2017.

As part of the tCap contract with NASA, Boeing is guaranteed at least two and potentially six service flights after completing human certification.

The company has successfully demonstrated to NASA that the Commercial Crew Transportation System has reached design maturity appropriate to proceed to assembly, integration and test activities.

“We’re on track to fly in 2017, and this critical milestone moves us another step closer in fully maturing the CST-100 design,” said John Mulholland, vice president of 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.

Missions flown to the station on Boeing’s CST-100 and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft will restore America’s human spaceflight capabilities and increase the amount of scientific research that can be conducted aboard the orbiting laboratory.

"Final development and certification are top priority for NASA and our commercial providers, but having an eye on the future is equally important to the commercial crew and station programs," said Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. "Our strategy will result in safe, reliable and cost-effective crew missions."

A standard mission to the station will carry four NASA or NASA-sponsored crew members and about 220 pounds of pressurized cargo. The spacecraft will remain at the station for up to 210 days and serve as an emergency lifeboat during that time. Each contract includes a minimum of two and a maximum potential of six missions.

“Commercial Crew launches are critical to the International Space Station Program because it ensures multiple ways of getting crews to orbit,” said Julie Robinson, International Space Station chief scientist. “It also will give us crew return capability so we can increase the crew to seven, letting us complete a backlog of hands-on critical research that has been building up due to heavy demand for the National Laboratory.”

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