Boeing has a nifty little invoice of $4.3 Billion to send to NASA, marking the price tag of being awarded with a contract to “complete and manufacture the CST-100 ‘space taxi'”, which will end the American dependence on the Russian Soyuz capsule for human spaceflight launches. Ever since NASA’s shuttle orbiters were retired in 2011 by force, any astronauts from the US must rely on Russia for getting up into space.
The plan is to launch the CST-100 in 2017, after completing a series of milestones set up by NASA to ensure the quality and capability of the spacecraft to complete the intended missions safely and to their satisfaction. There will also be a couple of unmanned orbital flights before commencing the new way to send space staff back and forth to the International Space Station, ISS.
Together with another, recently contracted SpaceX spacecraft, called Crew Dragon, the CST-100 and the Crew Dragon will be able to carry four to five NASA related crew members and up to 220 pounds of cargo each. The crew will be able to stay at the space station for as long as 210 days, and while the “space taxis” are docked, they will double serve as lifeboats, should anything bad or worse happen out there.
The contract is agreed upon between the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability together with NASA’s Launch America initiative and on the other end John Elbon, vice president and general manager of Boeing’s Space Exploration division, who proudly states: “This occasion will go in the books of Boeing’s nearly 100 years of aerospace and more than 50 years of space flight history.”
While it’s only been a matter of time before beginning the commercial space traffic, Julie Robinson, chief scientist for the International Space Station explains: “Commercial Crew launches are critical to the International Space Station Program, because it ensures multiple ways of getting crews to orbit. It will also 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”.
So, given that both of these companies take good care of their lucrative opportunities to handle NASA’s need for transportation between Earth and ISS, one of them will be assigned to complete the first commercial crew rotation mission.