16 September 2010
News - Vehicles (Good)
Boeing Announces Space Taxi
Built by 2015
by G B Leatherwood
There’s only one way to get from Earth to the International Space Station ( ISS): First, you have to pay about $30 million for a seat on a Russian Soyuz. Then, you spend six months learning both Russian and other necessary skills to handle yourself in weightlessness and during possible emergencies. Only then can you join the elite seven civilians who have made the trip to date.

This is going to change if Boeing, Bigelow Aerospace, and Florida-based Space Adventures are successful, especially the Boeing part of the partnership.

In a news conference on Wednesday, September 15, 2010, Boeing Aerospace announced its plans to establish a space taxi system, using its yet-to-be built CST-100 rocket and passenger capsule, by 2015.

“By 2015,” however, is far from a done deal, especially since the whole thing hinges on funding from the US government, which is a long way from being a sure thing since. Currently, the US Congress is squabbling over President Obama’s plan to scrap the overdue and over-budget Constellation/Ares project and replace it with commercial ventures.

In concept, the Boeing craft would carry passengers aloft in a stubby cone-shaped capsule, one that looks very much like the previous Apollo capsule that carried three men to the Moon and dropped them back on Earth under three giant parachutes. Not exactly cutting-edge technology, but why mess with something that works?

In the news conference, Boeing’s program manager for commercial crew transportation John Elbon included the caveat “…that the effort to launch a space taxi by 2015 is intimately linked to NASA’s commercial crew transport program. If Congress approves money to spur the effort and Boeing wins a future contract, to carry astronauts into space, then the 2015 date is possible. But if Congress postpones the commercial space program or eliminates it, then the company’s efforts will be delayed or scrapped.”

In a separate comment Eric Anderson, CEO of Space Adventures, the broker of civilian trips to the ISS, dismissed the criticism that a government-funded program is still a government program, saying, “That is hogwash. So many industries have been strategically aided by government,” referring to the early funding of commercial aviation by government funding of mail transportation.
So there you have it. Aerospace giant Boeing, allied with ambitious entrepreneur Robert Bigelow, is going to provide the US with its very own space taxi so we won’t have to rely on the Russian Soyuz system to get us to the ISS--that is, if the US Congress decides to pony up the funds.

Not exactly what the proponents of commercial space travel have been working for, but absolutely a step in the right direction.
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G B Leatherwood 16 September 2010
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