Boeing passenger spacecraft gets ready for December flight

Katie Ramirez
November 25, 2019

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Boeing has developed the spacecraft for NASA as part of the space agency's Commercial Crew project. The vehicle will one day carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS), but first, it has to complete its maiden voyage.

Boeing's CST-100 Starliner has been connected to an Atlas V rocket ahead of its first test flight to the International Space Station which is planned to take place on December 17 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Ripley is to take his Crew Dragon flight in March. SpaceX has the advantage of designing its manned spacecraft based on an established cargo ship design. The original Dragon has been making supply runs to the ISS for several years, so it was able to test the crewed version (autonomously) earlier this year. Without a nasty failure of the fuel line that destroyed a spaceship during testing in April, SpaceX could already fly people into space. Credit: NASA/Cory HustonThe Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is guided into position above a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket at the Vertical Integration Facility. Well, technically, there will be a dummy aboard to collect data.

Of note: Like SpaceX's Crew Dragon before it, Boeing's Starliner is carrying a sensor-laden test dummy - or "anthropomorphic test device", in NASA-speak - to give engineers a sense of what humans will experience during future flights. The capsule will be attached to Atlas V, a rocket manufactured by the United Launch Alliance, and it will fly without any crew members.

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"If commercial flights do not begin operation by October 2020, ISS officials cautioned there are no Soyuz flights available to transport USA or partner crew to Station", according to the report. It will dock with the station for a few days then return back to Earth.

The capsules used to ferry astronauts will be fully reusable after some refurbishment, which should make the seats less expensive.

Boeing refuted the figure and hit back at NASA with its own statement; "We strongly disagree with the report's conclusions about CST-100 Starliner pricing and readiness, and we owe it to the space community and the American public to share the facts the Inspector General [IG] missed", said Jim Chilton, vice president and general manager of Boeing Space and Launch. The rocket generates about 1.6 million pounds of thrust at launch.

One of the report's bigger findings: Boeing was paid an additional$287.2 million above its fixed contract price to ensure NASA would have transportation to the ISS in 2019. However, the aforementioned OIG report claimed both Boeing and SpaceX would end up launching crewed missions closer to summer 2020.

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