Boeing’s Muilenburg On Defense, Space Challenges

By Joseph C. Anselmo
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology

Really a combination. We've been working hard the last few years to extend the C-17 production line, principally on international sales, and we've had some good successes, such as India. We have 22 aircraft to deliver yet. But when you look at the timing of international sales and the uncertain budget situation in the U.S., you quickly come to the conclusion that we can't spend our limited R&D dollars to keep that line open.

Can you tell us about Boeing's discussions with Saab?

We have had discussions with Saab, along with other companies, on the [U.S. Air Force's] TX [trainer]. Some comments came out about whether we would use [Saab's JAS 39 Gripen] as our TX offering. That is not the path we're on. We are maintaining our strategy of defining a clean-sheet solution that responds directly to our customer's requirements. We've had broad discussions with Saab beyond the TX.

What are your plans for Boeing's space business?

We see space as a strong and growing sector. We're looking at unmanned vehicles, human space exploration and satellites. Additional investments include broadening the applications of the X-37B [reusable unmanned demonstrator] and NASA's new Space Launch System, which will provide exploration capability to the Moon and Mars.

It's interesting that you mention human spaceflight as a growth market.

That market has gone through some tough times with the dismantling of the Constellation program and the shutdown of the space shuttle. We've emerged from that, and the two areas of principal growth are commercial crew and the Space Launch System. The commercial crew marketplace is initially focused on supplying crew and cargo to the International Space Station. That alone provides a sufficient business case for us. If a broader commercial transportation market to low Earth orbit evolves, that would represent upside to the business case and might draw additional investment.

Is Boeing interested in satellite servicing?

The ability to do unmanned operations in space in an affordable, reliable way will be important for both commercial and military customers. It's hard for me to put a dollar figure on the market, but it's clear that it has a high strategic value. There is also a lot of innovation around hosted payloads—getting dual use out of satellites. That technology is rapidly maturing and being fielded.

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