SpaceX and Boeing are both building private spaceships to taxi astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA. Since the cancellation of NASA’s shuttle program, restoring the ability to launch American astronauts to ISS has been a top priority. It now appears that the goal is closer than ever.
Boeing received the first order for a commercial crew change flight to ISS in 2017. It is said the contract is the first-of-its-kind. SpaceX has not yet received a contract from NASA but it is expected that they will receive one later this year. Boeing’s CST 100 or Crew Space Transportation 100 was just approved to proceed to assembly, integration and test activities. CST100 had to complete the delta integrated critical design review, the fourth milestone in the commercial crew transportation capability (CCtCap) phase to get the approval to move forward.
The space capsule has been designed to transport up to seven passengers or a mix of crew and cargo. A standard mission would carry four crew members and 220 pounds of pressurized cargo. The capsule would dock on the space station and then it would remain with the station serving as an emergency lifeboat for approximately 201 days. Unmanned and manned test flights still need to be performed prior to the operation crew rotation mission.
In early 2017, after manned testing, it will be confirmed that the Boeing CST100 will be capable of meeting the requirements set by NASA. The contract awarded to Boeing is worth just over $4.2 billion. The contract SpaceX received from NASA was worth $2.6 billion to build the Crew Dragon spacecraft that is launched atop a Falcon 9 Rocket. The CST100 will usher in a new era of space exploration. Once again, the USA will be able to send our astronauts into space.
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