Post-space shuttles, businesses joining space race to transport astronauts

Space capsule

July 22, 2013 4:06:53 PM PDT
It's the brand new space race. With the shuttle long gone, businesses are stepping up trying to figure out how to get Americans to the space station. Boeing has just unveiled its design in Houston.

Boeing is planning a crewed flight test to the space station in 2017. It has taken two years and a day to get from drawing board to this real world mockup of the vehicle.

Every single space craft ever launched from US soil has been made in part by Boeing. For more than 50 years, the company has played some role in the space race.

Former astronaut Chris Ferguson said, "When you buy a Boeing product, you're getting that legacy, you're getting that history."

Monday for the first time, Boeing unveiled the next vehicle which it hopes will continue that commitment -- a capsule designed specifically to pick up where the recently retired space shuttle left off, so NASA can stop paying the Russians upwards of $70 million a seat now for a ride on a Soyuz capsule to the ISS.

Chris said, "We're competing for NASA 's business to transport humans back and forth to the ISS."

This is a mockup of Boeing's commercial crew capsule. It can seat a crew of seven or cargo, or any combination up to 2,800 pounds. Astronauts are testing it for fit, to ensure displays and panels are accessible. NASA leaders say this is an important step -- a benchmark in the vehicle's development.

Kathy Lueders with NASA said, "This is critical to the continuing servicing of the space station."

Boeing created a computer animation showing the capsule on top of an Atlas 5 rocket. The capsule would then rendezvous with the station. Upon return it would use both parachutes and air bags to land on land. Bumpy, maybe, but keeping it out of the water allows the capsule to be used over and over Boeing says, keeping costs lower.

There are two other vendors vying for this NASA contract -- Space X and Sierra Nevada. Each is building its own vehicle. Space X has already proven its capsule for cargo transport.

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