HOUSTON — Boeing has thrown open the hatch to its new commercial spacecraft, offering a first look inside the capsule it is building in a bid to fly NASA astronauts to the International Space Station.
At its Houston Product Support Center located near NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Boeing revealed its first full-scale model of the CST-100, a gumdrop-shaped spacecraft that can seat up to seven crew members.
On Monday (July 22), two NASA astronauts were strapped into the capsule mockup to undergo flight suit evaluations aimed at validating the CST-100’s interior design.
Astronauts Randy Bresnik and Serena Aunon donned the same type of pressure suits for the fit checks as were last used two years ago aboard the space shuttle.
“This is our second iteration, our ‘Phase 2’ iteration, of the interior of the vehicle,” Tony Castilleja, a Boeing CST-100 mechanical engineer, told collectSPACE.com. “Basically to rapid prototype it and have the NASAcustomer give us feedback — the NASA customer being the end user, the NASA astronauts.”
To design the CST-100 space capsule and the interior of its crew cabin, Boeing engineers drew from the company’s experience as the lead space shuttle contractor, as well as its heritage building the command module for NASA’s Apollo program and its rejected bid for the agency’s Orion crew exploration vehicle.
The CST-100, however, is a new breed of spacecraft — a commercial vehicle that is owned, operated and partially-funded by the company, rather than by NASA. Boeing is one of three U.S. companies, including Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and Sierra Nevada Corporation, competing for NASA’s business to ferry astronauts to and from low Earth orbit.
To date, NASA has awarded Boeing $570 million to design and develop the CST-100.