NASA’s Commercial Crew Program will deliver U.S. astronauts into low-Earth orbit, from U.S. soil, and aboard a U.S. spacecraft, for the first time since the end of the Space Shuttle era. Image Credit: NASA
Eight months after it was shortlisted as one of two finalists in the $6.8 billion Commercial Crew transportation Capability (CCtCap) phase of the effort to return U.S. astronauts to orbit, aboard a U.S. spacecraft, and from U.S. soil, for the first time since the twilight of the Space Shuttle era, Boeing has received the first of to six orders to execute a crew-rotation mission of its CST-100 spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS). The announcement was made yesterday (Wednesday, 27 May) by NASA and Boeing and it was noted that this and future orders will typically be made 2-3 years before flight, in order to provide sufficient time for the fabrication and integration of both the spacecraft and its launch vehicle. It was also stressed that yesterday’s decision does not necessarily imply that a Boeing vehicle will fly ahead of its fellow CCtCap finalist, SpaceX, and that “determination of which company will fly its mission to the station first will be made at a later time”. Also in May, veteran astronaut Mike Fincke—previously the Astronaut Office’s representative to the Commercial Crew Program—has been assigned as Chief of the newly formed Commercial Crew Branch.