Boeing ramps up CST-100 Starliner production

Aerospace and defence manufacturer Boeing has announced ramped-up production of its latest manned spacecraft.

Previously only known as the CST-100, Boeing is now officially naming the spacecraft the Boeing CST-100 ‘Starliner’.

This follows a naming convention set by the company for many of its ground-breaking aerospace systems including the Model 307 Stratoliner and the 787 Dreamliner.

The CST-100 ‘Starliner’ will be assembled and processed for launch at the revitalized Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility, or C3PF, at Nasa’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Previously this location had been used by Nasa as a processing facility for the Space Shuttle.

“With the help of Nasa, we’re on the dawn of a new commercial space era,” said Boeing’s John Elbon, vice president and general manager of Space Exploration.

The spacecraft itself is being produced as part of Nasa’s Commercial Crew Program, intended for use as a ‘space taxi’, ferrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS).

“It’s been such a pleasure to work hand-in-hand with NASA on this commercial crew development, and when we look back 100 years from this point, I’m really excited about what we will have discovered,” Elbon continued.

Boeing engineers will begin construction of a structural test article for the Starliner in Decemeber this year, which will be used for a pad-abort test in early 2017.

The first planned manned launch of the Starliner vehicle will not be until mid 2017 at the earliest.

Commercial Crew Program

Nasa has been working with both Boeing and newcomer SpaceX in order to develop the next generation of manned craft able to take astronauts to the ISS.

Currently, since the termination of the Space Shuttle program, the US has had to rely on Russian craft for these missions.

All up, Nasa has awarded Boeing’s Starliner $4.2bn worth of contracts, while SpaceX’s Dragon has been awarded $2.6bn.

“In 35 states, 350 American companies are working to make it possible for the greatest country on Earth to once again launch our own astronauts into space,” said Nasa Administrator Charles Bolden.