Boeing awarded first commercial manned space mission contract

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Boeing has been awarded the first-ever contract for a private manned space mission(Credit: Boeing)

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Commercial passenger spaceflight has gone on the books with Boeing announcing that it's received the first contract ever issued to a private company to carry out a manned space mission. The NASA task order means that Boeing's CST-100 spacecraft will ferry crews to the International Space Station (ISS) on up to six missions.

The order was awarded as part of the US$4.2 billion Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contract with Boeing, which was selected in 2014 along with SpaceX's Crew Dragon to use privately developed and operated spacecraft to resume American manned space flights by 2017. The goal of the flights will be to deliver four NASA or NASA-sponsored astronauts and 220 lb (100 kg) of cargo to the ISS, after which the spacecraft will remain at the station for up to 210 days, where it will act as a lifeboat in the event of an emergency.

NASA announced that SpaceX will receive its flight contract later this year and the question of which company will fly the first commercial crew rotation mission will be decided at a future date. The first flight is scheduled to launch in 2017, though this is contingent on the CST-100 or Crew Drason being certified for manned flight and the authorization of the necessary budget by the US Congress.

The Boeing CST-100 is designed to carry up to seven passengers or a mixture of astronauts and cargo into Low-Earth Orbit (LEO). In addition to the ISS, CST-100 may also visit the privately developed Bigelow space habitat. It recently completed the fourth CCtP milestone called the delta integrated critical design review.

"We’re on track to fly in 2017 and this critical milestone moves us another step closer in fully maturing the CST-100 design," says John Mulholland, vice president of Commercial Programs. "Our integrated and measured approach to spacecraft design ensures quality performance, technical excellence and early risk mitigation."

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