Just a few weeks ago, on the 18th of December, 2015 NASA gave Boeing the go ahead on their next phase of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. NASA has been working with Boeing since early this year and with SpaceX back just last month for the establishment of International Space Station (ISS) missions. It is exciting to see the commercial companies emerging to support the government’s missions. This means that NASA now understand the power of commercial innovation. A program like “Commercial Crew” helps to bridge the decades-long misunderstanding between government and commercial aerospace ventures. The energy behind these programs at Boeing and SpaceX will likely spur new patentable technology that will no doubt enable the U.S. be well positioned globally in space travel for both science and commerce.
Having worked with the FAA for years, Boeing was up for the challenge to meet and exceed the requirements driven from NASA. Check out the requirements for “certifications” needed at this link: NASA certifies Boeing. The progress of Boeing’s Starliner has been coming along quite well (Boeing's Starliner Progress). Cape Canaveral will host Boeing’s test launches in 2017. Competitor, SpaceX, with their Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket, have also advanced through NASA’s several development and certification phases.
Now that both the SpaceX and the Boeing projects have been certified, the attention turns to the actual space vehicles themselves. For each of the space vehicles, the Boeing CST-100 and the SpaceX Crew Dragon, will be capable of carrying out two manned-missions to the ISS per year. The regular crew missions to the space station are an attempt to “achieve safe, reliable, and cost-effective access to and from the International Space station and low-Earth Orbit.” Kathy Lueders, manager of the Commercial Crew Program at Boeing, stated, “Placing orders for those missions now really sets us up for a sustainable future aboard the International Space Station.”
Now, why are the CST-100 (Commercial Crew) and Crew Dragon programs important? It means innovation! It mean new opportunities for vendors, engineers, scientists and those passionate about spacetravel. This is a big deal for the country and the science of space and all it has to offer. Moreover, it means a special focus in the Greater Seattle area where both Boeing and SpaceX are located. With many other space programs around Seattle (including Blue Origin) Seattle could be the next Space Hub?
Programs like these give individuals who have aspirations to become an astronaut hope for a fruitful career while making spaceflight a reality for those that have the financial wherewithal. Real life programs like this enable those that desire to be a part of the research, development and design the chance to work on something revolutionary. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is a big step towards making commercial human space travel a possibility.