This past Friday, September 4th, Boeing opened a warehouse in Florida that will assemble the Starliner – Boeing’s new spacecraft which will shuttle people to and from the International Space Station. The hanger was not a new build, but a renovation of the old space shuttle hangar at the Kennedy Space Center. The hangar doors have an awesome graphic of the Starliner hurtling out of earth’s atmosphere. While the spacecraft is still a prototype, Boeing projects test flights in 2017. NASA has made a large investment in the spacecraft as well with a $4.2 billion contract as part of the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability program. The contract consists of 6 flights, as well as R&D for the Starliner itself.
NASA’s contracts with private companies, as well as other government agencies, have been the driving force behind the development of spacecraft. The president and CEO of Boeing admits though, that private space programs will not succeed with only business from government agencies. In order to be viable, programs like the Starliner and SpaceX’s Dragon will require contracts from the private sector as well. The Guardian reports:
The Boeing Starliner spacecraft will shuttle crew and cargo to and from the ISS.Click To Tweet
Boeing already has agreements to provide space transportation services for privately owned Bigelow Aerospace, which plans to lease out space aboard its planned orbiting outposts for scientific research and commercial programs.
The Starliner is going to be an automated starship, that, at the moment, is set to be one of the two ways that the US will be able to move cargo and people into and out of space. Both the Starliner and the Dragon will be able to carry a maximum of 7 crew members as well as cargo.
It seems that the Kennedy Space Center is becoming home to more and more private companies, all entering the new frontier of capitalism.
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