CST-100 Starliner: Boeing's spaceship plant re-launches US space exploration program
Boeing is making news after it opened its new spaceship plant in Cape Canaveral, Florida last Friday. This event also marks the revitalization of America's space exploration program after it retired the Space Shuttle in 2011.
Boeing will be making its new CST-100 Starliner in the said facility. The Starliner can ferry up to 7 persons or up to 2,500 kg of cargo to the International Space Station, according to sputniknews. The price tag for the whole program is $4.2 billion which will include a test flight scheduled for 2017 and a total of six more flights to the ISS after that.
NASA previously gave Boeing $621 million to start designing and developing spaceships. Now that the CST-100 (Crew Space Transportation) is nearing completion, the program is expected to move forward in full swing.
Reuters quoted Dennis Muilenberg, Boeing Chief Executive saying, "This is a point in history that reflects a new era in human spaceflight," during the company's opening ceremony of is new plant, a refurbished facility where NASA used to process its space shuttles. Boeing is indeed taking part of a historic turn in space exploration. The Starliner will also be used by the company to ferry space tourists in the near future. The space capsules will remain to be in possession of the company based on its agreement with NASA, opening up many possibilities for Boeing.
The capsules will be launched into space aboard Atlas 5 rockets in Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The Atlas rockets are also made by Boeing in partnership with Lockheed Martin.
Boeing is not the only one pursuing a similar space transit system. NASA also has a contract with Elon Musk's company Space X worth $2.6 billion, according to a report by Zacks. The contract will have the same details with the one Boeing has with NASA. The Space X has its Dragon capsules that will also ferry crew to and from the ISS.
NASA's sizable investment to its new space exploration project with Boeing and Space X addresses costs issues of sending space crew to the ISS. Since 2011, NASA has been dependent on Russia in sending its crew to the station with a price of $71 million per seat. Boeing's Starliner can provide NASA with the ability to send more of its people into space at a much lower cost.