Boeing has jumped into the lineup of new spacecraft vying to fill the Space Shuttle retirement gap with the recent announcement of the Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 spacecraft.
Similar in design to SpaceX‘s Dragon spacecraft, larger than NASA‘s Apollo Command Module spacecraft, but smaller than NASA’s canceled Orion spacecraft, (which may or may not end up serving as a lifeboat for the International Space Station,) the capsule-shaped CST-100 is designed to carry up to seven astronauts to low Earth orbit. With a combination landing system comprised of both parachutes and airbags, the CST-100 can soft-land, swap heat shields, and be re-used up to ten times.
If that weren’t forward-enough planning, in what may be a business-model coup, the CST-100 is designed to mate with a great many existing rocket types, including Lockheed’s Atlas V, Boeing’s own Delta IV, and even SpaceX’s Falcon 9.
And, perhaps the most interesting part of the announcement is the fact that in addition to NASA as an intended end-user, Bigelow Aerospace is specifically named, including the below image of a CST-100 rendezvous with a future BA space station.
(Link here [YouTube] for a Boeing “B-Roll” video animation of the CST-100 transit to, docking, and undocking with a proposed Bigelow space station.)
With serious corporations working both ends toward the middle like this, and with both business models relying on the other, (space stations relying on craft to get people there, spacecraft requiring destinations to fly to,) a serious presence off-world is more likely than ever! In all, a fantastic development for the commercial spacecraft as well as commercial space station industries.
Oh, and for the curious, the “100” in CST-100 conveniently refers to the 100-kilometer altitude that marks the “edge” of space. This begs the question: Does the fact that a number is there imply we might see a CST-200 or CST-300K [lunar orbit] sometime in the future? Interesting…