Boeing is giving the public the first look inside the CST-100, in Phase 2 of the interior layout. You can clearly see the influence of their airliner business, which they’ve not previously consulted on spacecraft; it even has the same blue LED background lighting as the Dreamliner. The display panels come from Boeing St Louis (the former McDonnell-Douglas), and the exterior shell comes from Bigelow Aerospace. NASA loaned a couple of astronauts to come in, put on ACES suits from the Shuttle program, and try it out as part of the rapid prototyping effort. The configuration you’ll see in this article has five seats; CST-100 advertises a crew of seven, but for test purposes, this prototype was configured with two seats removed for increased stowage space.
Boeing reveals interior of new commercial space capsule
I’m obviously following the commercial crew competition, but if you’re not, here’s a brief rundown. NASA solicited proposals for commercial providers of ISS crew transfer services. This works a lot like their existing model of commercial cargo providers, a competition which ultimately wound up going to SpaceX’s reusable Dragon capsule and Orbital Science’s single-use Cygnus. Dragon has made a couple of trips up to the ISS and is fully operational; a Cygnus mass-model has been launched successfully, and the first flight to the ISS is expected later this summer.
But commercial crew is even more exciting, because HUMAN SPACEFLIGHT! NASA has already eliminated some competitors. Now it’s down to three, and NASA intends to downselect to two. (Congress has been threatening to force a downselect to one, but so far NASA’s plan is stable. They want the reduced risk that comes with multiple providers.) The competitors are SpaceX, with a crewed version of their Dragon spacecraft (this is the real reason they made the cargo version reusable), Boeing, with the CST-100 capsule (which is also being touted for Bigelow Aerospace’s planned fleet of inflatable space hotels), and Sierra Nevada, with Dream Chaser, the only spaceplane in the bunch. They’re all very exciting, and have made very credible progress despite being required to come up with most of the funding themselves.
The lastest update is for CST-100. Having already completed drop tests to validate the parachutes and landing system, the team has now completed transonic wind tunnel testing of a scale model of the complete CST-100/Atlas V stack. It passed with (ahem) flying colors. The next step is to complete validation of the two-engine Centaur booster that will form the Atlas V’s upper stage, a new version of Centaur that will be required to boost the hefty seven-man capsule. Boeing is also planning a test of the CST-100’s orbital maneuvering system, and has an aggressive schedule that will complete all CCiCap milestones by next summer. That’s when NASA will decide which two get to proceed to the next stage: space. CST-100 is expected to fly unmanned in 2015, and crewed in 2016.