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NASA Space Science

Boeing Shows Off First Commercial Spacecraft 114

coondoggie writes "Boeing today released the first public glimpse of the commercial spacecraft it is working on under an $18 million contract with NASA. Boeing's Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 can hold seven crew and will be bigger than Apollo but smaller than NASA's Orion, and be able to launch on a variety of different rockets, including Atlas, Delta and Falcon.The company envisions the spacecraft supporting the International Space Station and future Bigelow Aerospace Orbital Space Complex systems. Bigelow is building what it calls 'expandable habitats,' that which are inflatable spacecraft would act as large, less costly space stations."
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Boeing Shows Off First Commercial Spacecraft

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  • What about SpaceX? (Score:3, Informative)

    by kindups ( 1483627 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @10:44PM (#32986072)
    I don't think this is the first commerical spacecraft. SpaceX has been working on their Dragon capsule along with the lift vehicles.
  • by jfengel ( 409917 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @10:44PM (#32986080) Homepage Journal

    Here's an article about it that sucks slightly less, with more and bigger paintings: []

    It's still a stretch to call it "showing off" when you haven't even got a mock up.

  • Re:Dupe (Score:3, Informative)

    by sznupi ( 719324 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @11:32PM (#32986336) Homepage

    To be fair, that's basically a mockup; hardly counts.. Though the proper test vehicle should be in orbit this year.

    Then there are two test spacecraft of Bigelow already orbiting for some time. And plenty commercial telecomm ones.

  • by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @12:56AM (#32986662) Journal
    SpaceX is months away from test flights of the Dragon capsule. It'll be years before Boeing is anywhere near ready to launch. Besides, SpaceX already has a contract to run crew and cargo up to the ISS.
  • by Teancum ( 67324 ) <robert_horning AT netzero DOT net> on Thursday July 22, 2010 @09:58AM (#32989394) Homepage Journal

    Did anyone notice that they don't say where they are going in this capsule? Where are the senators who called Obama's proposed budget a mission to nowhere? This new NASA program doesn't have a destination, either, but at least the dollars keep flowing to the same interests.

    Note that Boeing is developing this on their own dime, not as a part of a cost-plus contract where the government takes all of the risk in terms of costs involved in developing the vehicle. That is a huge deal. This is also not a NASA project either, and it almost entirely done with private funds.

    Still, Boeing would really like to get some additional customers besides Bigelow Aerospace, and the only real game in town for the past several decades has been the U.S. government. The executives at Boeing are trying to be realistic here in terms of thinking that commercial spaceflight customers aren't going to be sufficient to justify the engineering expense for building this vehicle, so they are trying to sweet talk some of their fairy god-senators for some extra money to ensure that they can make a profit off of this design.

    One of the things that has kept Boeing in business when many other aircraft building companies have gone under is an insistence that whatever they make has customers before they start the major engineering designs and the ability to at least break even if not make a profit when that happens. It does make them risk-averse and keeps them from creating very innovative designs, but it does make the company profitable and ensures that they will be around for another hundred years. Sometimes it doesn't help to create a wild and crazy new design if nobody is interested in using it afterward.

    As for the manned NASA spaceflight program.... it is going to be stuck on the Earth for at least a decade, with the exception of going up on Russian Soyuz rockets. Oh the irony in that thought where Soviet-era and designed equipment is keeping astronauts in orbit. Khrushchev would have been proud.

  • by FleaPlus ( 6935 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @11:42AM (#32990868) Journal

    If I were SpaceX founder Elon Musk, I'd be hopping mad right now. After developing Falcon9 and Dragon on the basis of a truly competitive commercial space program, the porkbarrel senators for aerospace/defense contractor states wrote a new NASA budget to basically hand money over to Boeing and the rest of the usual cast of trough-feeders to continue but with changes and more delays the Ares/Orion program.

    I think you're conflating two separate things, here, which is understandable, because it's kind of convoluted. The thing is, Boeing is involved in -both- the commercial crew capsule, and is also involved with the Ares program (they're contractors on the upper stage, but LM is the contractor for the Orion capsule). If the current push in Congress for a government-designed launch vehicle goes through, Boeing will also probably be one of the main contractors.

    I personally think their cost-plus government-designed launch vehicle work is rather unfortunate, but their fixed-price commercial crew work is pretty awesome. It's important for them to be a competitor in the commercial crew arena, and Elon Musk actually agrees:

    (This is from a May interview, and Boeing's changed their tone a fair bit since then. I could've sworn I saw a more recent interview with Musk where he stated that he foresees SpaceX being a cheaper provider alongside Boeing/ULA, but I can't find it) []

    BRENNAN: But when you look at your business, it's a really interesting venture here. But it is relatively untested. We heard from NASA's chief himself who said he might be more comfortable working with a Boeing, with a Northrop Grumman. Why would a start-up like yours really be able to compete in this space? Relatively untested.

    MUSK: Yes, and I agree with that assessment. And I agree with the administrator. In fact, the opponents of Constellation cancellation have tried to strong arm the argument by claiming that Constellation will be cancelled and handed over just to SpaceX, which is actually false.

    In fact, what will happen is that there will be multiple providers of space transport to orbit. And Boeing and Lockheed will in fact almost certainly be the largest recipients of that funding. They just won't make quite as much as they would have made under the old program. So hence their opposition.

    I do think there's a good likelihood that SpaceX will be one of those providers. But we will be just one provider among many.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 22, 2010 @11:47AM (#32990948)

    That hype included a two week turnaround time for individual shuttles.

  • by shadowfaxcrx ( 1736978 ) on Thursday July 22, 2010 @02:29PM (#32993608)

    The shuttle we have now was supposed to be a proof of concept vehicle. Once we proved that the idea of a reusable space-plane was viable, we were supposed to go ahead and build one that actually worked well. But we didn't. As with so many other NASA programs, the shuttle fell victim to ADD politicians.

    "Well we've BEEN to the moon! So let's scrap the whole program and fire all the engineers that got us there!"

    "Well we've GOT a space shuttle now! Why do we need to build a DIFFERENT one?"

    "Let's go to Mars!"

    "Screw Mars! Let's dismantle our entire manned spaceflight capability!"

    "Well, maybe a little capability .. "

    The political cycle that matters is the presidential one. Every 4 to 8 years a new President takes office, and runs over to NASA to reshape it in his image. Trouble is, an 8 year development cycle for something as complex as a manned space vehicle is incredibly short. And so whatever the previous President had them working on gets canceled in favor of whatever the current President wants them to work on - -which will itself get canceled before completion by the next President.

    We either need to restructure the President's ability to make changes to NASA's goals (i.e. "You can't just cancel a program that's 75% completed when you take office because you feel like it") or we need to let the commercial companies take over, and sit back and hope they build something useful.

    Either way, I think we're screwed.

Thus spake the master programmer: "Time for you to leave." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"