October 01, 2012
Frank Morring, Jr. Washington
Boeing got high marks in the competition for an integrated commercial crew launch system with its CST-100 capsule, a bare-bones vehicle designed to reach the International Space Station on battery power after launch with an Atlas V.
In the just-completed Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) selection, NASA gave the aerospace giant the largest share of the $1.1 billion in seed money available. But the $460 million award came with a warning that Boeing's corporate commitment to the project is weak, leaving “an increased risk of insufficient funding” over the life of the Space Act agreement.
Associate Administrator William Gerstenmaier, who heads NASA's human spaceflight mission directorate, discounted Boeing's low investment in his selection of the CST-100 for CCiCap funding.
“While this was only one of 13 goals, I did consider it,” he writes in his formal source-selection document. “However, Boeing met all of the other goals and had a strong technical design; therefore, I did not find the lack of significant corporate financial commitment to be a major discriminator in my assessment.”
Across the three companies selected—Boeing, Sierra Nevada Corp. and SpaceX—Gerstenmaier says he picked the CST-100 because it scored highest in “level of effectiveness” and “confidence” on its technical approach. “The Boeing [vehicle] is clearly what we would see in more of a traditional program, the kind of layout and the structure and the way things flow,” he tells Aviation Week.
The company passed the first of its 19 CCiCap milestones—integrated systems review (ISR)—at a three-day meeting in August. Covering the seven-seat capsule, Atlas V and mission operations on the ground and in space, the review closed some issues left open at preliminary design review (PDR) during the second round of NASA's Commercial Crew Development effort that preceded CCiCap.
“We still had some open trades that we had to go work,” says John Mulholland, Boeing vice president and commercial crew program manager. “We had some water landing modes that we were attacking because of its threat on weight, some power-system decisions that we needed to make. We took that time between PDR and the kickoff of CCiCap to go pound those issues flat, so when we got into CCiCap we could really go full force on final design release.”