Boeing Will Soon Test Its 'Space Taxi' Service For Astronauts

Thursday, 26 October 2017 - 8:16PM
Space
Technology
NASA
Thursday, 26 October 2017 - 8:16PM
Boeing Will Soon Test Its 'Space Taxi' Service For Astronauts
United Launch Alliance
In the coming years, the skies above Earth will get increasingly busy, as corporate entities and various governmental agencies around the world put a greater effort into taming the cosmos, by building elaborate space stations and lunar bases. And for a complex interplanetary economy to flourish, we're going to need transport.

Sadly, we're not yet at the point where cheap spacecrafts are available as personal commodities - nor is it even feasible for the United States itself to own a rocket that's capable of shuttling back and forth between Earth and the International Space Station.

As such, Boeing is planning to soon begin tests for a space taxi service, working towards the goal of launching American astronauts into orbit with regular precision as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program.

These services had been initially planned to begin in 2017, but the two commercial enterprises who'll be offering them - Boeing (in conjuction with Lockheed Martin) and SpaceX - have both run into difficulties that have caused for delays.

While Boeing hasn't given any specific timetable on when their tests will begin and end, it's expected that they'll start with unmanned tests at some point in 2018, or potentially even 2019 depending on how preparations go, before moving onto manned launches. And they're currently putting together the Atlas V rocket that will do the heavy lifting.



NASA is hoping to rely heavily on Boeing and SpaceX once their commercial passenger space flights are operational. Currently, lacking the ability to get astronauts to and from the International Space Station, America has to piggyback on Russian shuttles in order to keep things running. This makes for some awkward negotiations between the American and Russian space agencies.

Boeing is currently building its reusable space taxi shuttle, called the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, in a facility in Decatur, Alabama. Everything is kept top secret, but Boeing has revealed that the first set of tests will involve unmanned flights to ensure the safety of the craft, before NASA will allow Boeing to go ahead with any tests that put human lives at risk.

The good news for Boeing is that SpaceX has been suffering from similar delays, as apparently both companies were ambitious about how quickly they could get their services up and running (although what else would you expect from government contractors?).

No matter when these trials actually begin to take place, there's no doubt that plenty more commercial companies are going to be jumping into the fray as soon as possible Richard Branson, owner of Virgin Galactic, has claimed that his company will be launching their initial rocket trials at some point in the next few months, although they don't have a specific timeline for when this will happen, and that company's services will be aimed more at commercial tourists than complex government contracts.

The important takeaway from this is that space travel is going to be an increasing part of many people's lives in the very near future. Before long, it'll be natural for commercial flights to be traveling back and forth between the Earth and the ISS on a regular basis, and beyond that, we have current plans for a lunar colony to look forward to.

Maybe the lack of a monolith has slowed down our progress compared to that in 2001: A Space Odyssey, but we're finally getting to the point where zipping off into space is no big deal.
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