NASA has given Boeing the go-ahead order to manufacture its crew rotation spacecraft to transport astronauts to the International Space Station in 2017, while SpaceX is likely to continue its ongong order until 2016.
Based on the model to be presented by SpaceX and Boeing, NASA will decide whose space vehicle will ferry astronauts to ISS and return. The contract said it would be subject to certification of the readiness of contractors to meet NASA conditions.
In the past, both Boeing’s Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft were sent to ISS, the orbiting space station. “Our strategy will result in safe, reliable and cost-effective crew missions,” said Kaathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Programme.
Boeing’s CST-100 has advanced over the period through several phases of certification and the company recently obtained the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap), which means it has achieved design maturity in terms of assembly, integration and test activities.
“We’re on track to fly in 2017, and this critical milestone moves us another step closer in fully maturing the CST-100 design,” said John Mulholland, Boeing’s vice president of Commercial Programs.
Orders under the CCtCap contracts are given two years before the mission launch and the 2017 launch will carry at least four NASA or NASA-sponsored crew members and about 220 pounds worth cargo.
The new spacecraft is being designed to remain at the ISS for 210 days and serve as an emergency rescue system as well. NASA contract usually includes a minimum of two and a maximum of six missions at a time.
SpaceX failed in its October 2014 mission though its other missions were successful.