The Boeing Company: From Rockets to Commercial Crew

The Boeing Company is an American aerospace company that manufactures rockets, airplanes, satellites, missiles, and other high-tech products. Since 2011, they have been involved in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) to provide a new vehicle that can transport astronauts into space.

Boeing was founded in 1916 by William Edward Boeing in Seattle, Washington, according to a information video on the company’s website. Boeing, which had made a fortune selling lumber, teamed up with engineer George Conrad Westervelt to build a new type of seaplane called the Boeing Model 1.

From planes to rockets

Over the years, the company has grown and produced aircraft for military and commercial applications. During the 1960s Apollo program, Boeing worked with McDonnell Douglas and North American Aviation to build the Saturn V rocket who took the astronauts to the moon, according to the company.

Boeing also participated in the Spaceship program. The company made a modified Boeing 747 that the orbiting shuttle overlays during testing and travel, according to Boeing.

In 2006, Boeing formed a joint venture with private spaceflight company Lockheed Martin called United launch alliance (ULA) to supply rockets to both NASA and the US Department of Defense. The ULA owns some of the world’s largest launchers, which transport supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) and are also used to propel probes to other planets in the solar system.

Commercial space flight

When the space shuttle program ended in 2011, NASA was looking for alternatives that could get its crews into space. That year, the agency awarded four private companiesBlue Origin, Sierra Nevada, EspaceX and Boeing – contracts to spur the development of new vehicles capable of traveling to the ISS, with Boeing receiving the highest funding at the time with $ 92.3 million.

Boeing had previously worked on its Crew Space Transportation-100 (CST-100) spacecraft, a capsule that could fly on various rocket boosters, including SpaceX and ULA. The award allowed the company to continue to develop and improve the vehicle.

Related: Starliner: Boeing’s next-generation spacecraft

In 2014, NASA selected SpaceX and Boeing as partners in its commercial crew program. SpaceX has used its Crew Dragon spacecraft to transport astronauts, while Boeing continues to work on its vehicle, now called the CST-100 Starliner.

Starliner and Atlas V on the pad, July 29, 2021. (Image credit: United Launch Alliance)

Starliner is a gumball-shaped capsule measuring 14.8 feet (4.5 meters) in diameter at its widest point. It is designed to carry up to seven passengers, or a mixture of cargo and crew, in low earth orbit, according to Boeing. As of May 2020, NASA had given Boeing around $ 4.8 billion to develop Starliner.

According to a report from the Office of the Inspector General of the United States, NASA will pay around $ 90 million per seat for each crew member on Starliner, compared to just $ 55 million per seat for Dragon, although Boeing said that they “strongly disagreed” with the report. conclusions regarding prices.

Boeing began its long-awaited Starliner tests in space in 2019, during a mission that was to last eight days and include an automated appointment with the ISS. An error with Starliner’s onboard timing system prevented this plan from being implemented, and the capsule ended up circling the Earth on its own for 48 hours, then landing at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. .

Boeing’s Starliner has since suffered repeated delays due to issues with the vehicle’s valves and at the end of 2021, it’s unclear when the capsule can carry astronauts.

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