Boeing is venturing into commercial spaceships business. The company has taken over a retired NASA space hangar in Florida from where it will assemble its spaceships. Boeing has named its spaceships CST-100 Starliner, and NASA intends to use them to fly its scientists to the International Space Station. To make meaningful gains from its spaceships projects, Boeing is looking for customers beyond NASA, and the company already has some contracts in place.
A time has come when Boeing feels that commercial space flight is something it can venture into and extract gains for itself and for partners. The aircraft maker has unveiled an assembly plant in Florida where it hopes to produce the Starliner spaceships. The maiden test flight for Starliner is expected in 2017.
A new era in spaceflight
Starliner will be assembled at a plant that NASA previously used for space shuttles at the Kennedy Space Center. According to Boeing’s CEO, Dennis Muilenburg, a time has come for reflection in a new era in the spaceflight. With that, Muilenburg means that Boeing will be seeking to play a key role in commercial spaceships by being a supplier of the capsules capable of flying crew and cargo to space stations.
Boeing’s Starliners will launch from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Atlas 5 rockets.
NASA investing $4.2 billion for Starliner
In the case of NASA, the space agency is investing $4.2 billion for Starliner test flight where up to six missions to the space will be involved. Besides Boeing, NASA has also working with SpaceX for the development of spaceships. SpaceX, which is associated by Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, intends to invest $2.6 billion for the production of its version of spaceships.
NASA contributed $545 million to SpaceX and $621 million to Boeing towards designing and developing of spaceships.
As Boeing looks to commercial spaceships as new business frontier, the company says its focus goes beyond serving NASA. The company already has spaceship production contracts with Bigelow Aerospace, which is a private space transportation firm. A prototype of Bigelow’s spaceship is expected to launch in early 2016 in what is expected to be a two-year flight test.
The state of Florida also financed in the refurbishment of the old NASA center that Boeing will now use for its Starliner production.