Astronauts Evaluate Boeing’s Commercial Crew Effort

By Mark Carreau
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology

The evaluations collected this week could lead to modifications that would undergo a final round of astronaut assessments prior to the CDR, said Chris Ferguson, Boeing's director of crew and mission operations and a former shuttle commander.

Boeing has leaned hard on a half-century of prior spaceflight experience and borrowed from its success with commercial airliner production to tame CST-100's development costs. The capsule's outer mold line, for instance, closely resembles that of Boeing's losing design in the competition with Lockheed Martin for NASA's Orion crew exploration vehicle.

“There's not a whole lot of new technology,” Ferguson said. “A lot of it is state-of-the-art, a lot of it is off-the-shelf.”

While the CST-100 control panel layout is considered proprietary, pilot astronauts will board with electronic flight bags—tablet computers that serve as electronic instrument management devices, eliminating the paper-based reference materials of the space-shuttle era. Any switches, or knobs, serve a backup control function, Ferguson said.

The soft blue tones of internal illumination come from the Boeing Sky Interior light-emitting diode scheme introduced on later models of the 737.

While Boeing is comfortable with the ACES as a flight pressure suit for crewmembers, the company has agreed to listen to competing proposals before selecting a vendor.

Boeing is working toward the “rent-a-car” rather than the “taxi” model for commercial crew operations, meaning that NASA personnel—rather than company astronauts—would fly the CST-100. A United Launch Alliance Atlas V with a dual-engine Centaur upper stage will propel astronauts into orbit from Cape Canaveral on initial missions, though Boeing's design will accommodate other launch vehicles that demonstrate equal reliability, according to Mulholland.

Flight crews will likely spend about 2.5 hr. in the Boeing spacecraft prior to liftoff, comparable to shuttle operations. Boeing is planning a Flight Day One rendezvous and docking capability with the space station, rather than the shuttle's Day Three berthing. Russia introduced a Day One, four-orbit, rendezvous-and-docking profile earlier this year.

Boeing's customer base could expand to wealthy space tourists working through Space Adventures Ltd., or Bigelow Aerospace, which is developing a line of inflatable space stations for industrial and foreign government users.

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