NASA Orders First Commercial Crew Rotation Flight from Boeing

NASA Orders First Commercial Crew Rotation Flight from Boeing

NASA announced today that it has ordered its first commercial International Space Station (ISS) crew rotation mission from Boeing.   Boeing is building the CST-100 capsule under NASA’s Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCAP) contract with the first operational flight to the ISS expected in 2017.

SpaceX is also building a commercial crew vehicle under CCtCAP — the Dragon V2. NASA said it plans to order its first SpaceX crew rotation mission later this year.  Which company will actually fly the first operational mission to the ISS will be decided sometime in the future.

NASA awarded $4.2 billion to Boeing and $2.6 billion to SpaceX under CCtCAP last fall.  CST-100 will be launched on United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V
rockets, while SpaceX will launch Dragon on its own Falcon 9 launch

CCtCAP is a fixed price contract under which the companies are paid for meeting milestones that include certification of the vehicles by NASA.  The order for the first crew rotation missions are taking place before certification because it takes 2-3 years to manufacture the spacecraft.  Final approval for flight will not be made until each company has met the milestones.

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden stresses at every opportunity, and NASA emphasized again in today’s announcement, that full funding of the President’s $1.244 billion request for the commercial crew program is vital if the flights are to begin in 2017.  Bolden often says that congressional underfunding of the commercial crew program in the past delayed the program by two years.  The longer it takes, the longer the United States must rely on Russia to take U.S. astronauts to and from the ISS.  The United States has not had the ability to launch people into space since the space shuttle program was terminated in 2011.

Congress was slow to warm up to the idea of commercial crew and even though key members are just as anxious as NASA to end reliance on Russia, disagreement continues over whether NASA needs to support two companies or if only one is needed.  That is one reason Congress has provided less funding than requested.   The House Appropriations Committee recommended reducing the FY2016 request by $244 million, for a total of $1.0 billion in FY2016, in its markup of the Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill last week.

User Comments has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.