Space travel and exploration has gained a lot of traction in the past few years after what looked like a somewhat daunting future for NASA. In a press release on Wednesday though, NASA made a big announcement that will make America a player in the space game again: they bought a space mission contract from Boeing. The Boeing craft carrying out the flights is called the Crew Space Transportation, CST-100. It’s unsure when this craft will make its first voyage, but forecasts say less than three years away, probably in late 2017. The VP at Boeing, John Mulholland says,
We’re on track to fly in 2017, and this critical milestone moves us another step closer in fully maturing the CST-100 design.
NASA finalized the deal with Boeing after the CST-110 successfully finished Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) certification which involves Boeing’s design being examined and approved by NASA. CCtCap is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Development, a program conceived in 2006 to encourage private company development of spacecraft.
NASA also plans to buy a spacecraft from SpaceX, the Crew Dragon; points to SpaceX for the cooler name. The flight schedule for that spacecraft is virtually identical to that of Boeing’s, so which craft will carry a crew to the ISS first remains to be seen.
A standard mission to the station will carry four NASA or NASA-sponsored crewmembers and about 220 pounds of pressurized cargo. The spacecraft will remain at the station for up to 210 days and serve as an emergency lifeboat during that time. Each contract includes a minimum of two and a maximum potential of six missions.
These spacecraft and mission contracts firstly allows the US the option of bringing the crew of the ISS back to earth if need be. It will also allow the ISS to be brought to its capacity of 10 people, the three permanent crewmembers’ and seven additional members who come on the space shuttle.
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Featured image courtesy Cygo