According to a NASA news release, Boeing has completed the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) that will allow the company’s Crew Space Transportation, or “CST-100,” space capsule to be mated with the top of the launch vehicle that will send it to orbit. The component in question is known as the Launch Vehicle Adapter. It is made by the same company that has been tapped to launch the CST-100—United Launch Alliance (ULA). ULA’s venerable Atlas V rocket is the launch vehicle that has been selected to launch the CST-100. The CST-100 is a large part of NASA’s plans to send astronauts to low-Earth-orbit on commercially-built spacecraft.
Boeing is one of three companies selected to compete in NASA’s Commercial Crew integrated Capability, or CCiCap, program. This effort is designed to provide lower-cost access to orbit. The other two companies that are competing in this initiative are Hawthorne, Calif.-based Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and Sparks, Nev.-based Sierra Nevada Corporation. According to NASA, CCiCap is designed to provide crewed commercial services to both private and government customers.
In the past few weeks, representatives at NASA, ULA, and Boeing met at ULA’s headquarters, located in Denver, Colo., to review if the adapter was ready to move forward.
There are some 19 different milestones that Boeing must complete under CCiCap. Currently, Boeing remains on course to complete these milestones in the time required. According to NASA, Boeing has recently completed two other milestones—the Engineering Release (ER) 2.0 software release and the Landing and Recovery Ground Systems and Ground Communications design review.
“Solid systems engineering integration is critical to the design of a safe system,” said Ed Mango, NASA’s CCP manager. “Boeing and all of NASA’s partner companies are working to build in proper systems integration into their designs. This review with Boeing and their partner, ULA, was a good review of the current state of these important design interfaces.”
Currently, NASA lacks the capability to launch astronauts on their own. The space agency has to rely on its international partner, Russia, for access to the International Space Station. NASA hopes that one or more of the CCiCap competitors will be able to return this ability. Boeing has stated that the CST-100 can be operational by 2015.
“The PDR was an outstanding integrated effort by the Boeing, ULA, and NASA teams,” said John Mulholland, vice president and program manager of Boeing Commercial Programs. “The ULA design leverages the heritage hardware of the Atlas V to integrate with the CST-100, setting the baseline for us to proceed to wind tunnel testing and the Launch Segment-level PDR in June.”
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