Also included in the first milestone were the results of abort-engine hot-fire tests, wind-tunnel tests, parachute drops and tests of the air-bag system designed to cushion the capsule's nominal touchdown on dry land. With the ISR milestone complete, Mulholland says, the outer mold line of the capsule is frozen, and the program is on track to deliver its first flight-design hardware—the one-piece lower section of the capsule's aluminum pressure vessel—in “less than 20 months.” Boeing has rented the former space shuttle orbiter processing facility at Kennedy Space Center as the assembly facility for the CST-100 (AW&ST Nov. 7, 2011, p. 34). First flight is scheduled by the end of 2016, and the company is looking for ways to advance that, Mulholland says.
As for the finding that the Boeing home office has not committed sufficient resources to the CST-100, Mulholland argues that “conservative” corporate accounting obscures the in-kind role played by engineers from other Boeing units, including commercial aircraft and those building military fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft.
“Across the company, our business is delivering transportation platforms,” he says. “We bring a rigorous and robust process, because our company is not going to let these programs fail. One of the things that we always focus on is the old approach of 'test like you fly, and fly like you test,' so when we lay out a design and development program, it will look the same across all the portfolios.”
While proprietary financial information is redacted from the published versions of NASA's source-selection documents, Mulholland says his program's business case continues to close with the two flights per year to the ISS that NASA anticipated. Like other commercial-crew contenders, Boeing is also looking to stoke new markets in space tourism and alternate destinations such as the inflatable space habitats under development by Bigelow Aerospace.
“We'll close on two NASA flights alone, but we are also in a position of trying to make sure that we're doing everything we can to help the market emerge,” Mulholland says.