A Closer Look at Boeing's CST-100 Starliner Spacecraft For NASA

Friday, 28 December 2018 - 11:08AM
Space
Technology
Friday, 28 December 2018 - 11:08AM
A Closer Look at Boeing's CST-100 Starliner Spacecraft For NASA
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NASA
2018 was supposed to be the year of NASA test flight launches, but a series of delays has caused the space agency to make some adjustments to its schedule. With 2019 creeping around the corner, now's a good time to take a closer look at one of the spacecrafts that will finally be getting off of the ground soon: Boeing's CST-100 Starliner.



Boeing's Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 Starliner was developed in partnership with NASA as a part of the agency's Commercial Crew Program, the same program that birthed SpaceX's Crew Dragon. Built to accomodate 7 astronauts or a combination of astronauts and cargo, the reusable spacecraft capsule is the first "human-rated orbital spacecraft" built from scratch since the Space Shuttle Columbia. It features a weldless design which reduces the risk of structural issues caused by traditional welding. The design of the low-Earth orbit bound craft also allowed for a faster production time and reduced mass. In addition to onboard WiFi for entertainment and communication purposes, Starliner features autonomous docking hardware and software for its trips to the International Space Station, and there is an airbag system designed for ground-based (not water) landings. Boeing hasn't shared receipts, but back in 2014 its contract with NASA was said to be worth $4.2 billion, awarded in phases and meant to cover the production and construction of three spacecrafts.

An uncrewed test flight of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner is now scheduled for March 2019, with a crewed test to follow in August. Earlier this month, Boeing shared that it was performing a number of environmental tests to get Starliner ready for its big day. The tests replicate the conditions of space (in test chambers in El Segundo, California) to prove that the capsule can take the abuse. "Our El Segundo team has shown us over and over again what they can achieve with our satellite programs. This time, however, their payload has family and friends to come home to when the mission is over," said Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson in a statement. "We know this team is focused on making sure our ride is safe and successful."

There is still some work to be done, but Boeing and NASA are working diligently to make sure that there are no more delays and that CST-100 Starliner is ready come March.
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