Boeing reveals commercial crew transport bid

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Boeing is piling into a $50 million NASA competition to fill the crew transport gap left by the Space Shuttle fleet's 2010 retirement with a concept using its own spacecraft design to deliver cargo and astronauts to low Earth orbit.

Starting in November, NASA's 10-month Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) programme will provide space act agreement (SAA) funding, matched by private finance, either to a single winner or split between many SAAs for multiple companies.

Boeing says: "We will initiate the basic overall system definition and design and will perform subsystem demonstration, such as life support, avionics and landing systems." Boeing's system would be compatible with multiple-launch vehicles.

boeing orbital spaceplane capsule concept
©Boeing

 Boeing's capsule work (see above) for NASA's defunct Orbital Spaceplane programme will contribute towards its Commercial Crew Development concept
Boeing has on its team Las Vegas, Nevada-based Bigelow Aerospace, which is developing a private space station for government and commercial research and tourism. Bigelow says it is contributing "substantial" private financing and its station will use Boeing's spacecraft, launched on an evolved expendable launch vehicle (EELV). Boeing builds the Delta IV EELV.

Boeing says Bigelow will provide details on its station's life support, communications, crew interface and support equipment. Bigelow is submitting its own CCDev proposal, which it says is for "developing a long lead item technology that is applicable to any spacecraft".

Boeing declines to name its other team members, but says its divisions, advanced network and space systems and its space and intelligence systems are onboard three separate CCDev teams. Other companies interested in CCDev are Space Exploration Technologies, Orbital Sciences and Xcor Aerospace.