Boeing looks to leverage its broader capabilities and heritage

CST-100 illustration

Illustration of Boeing’s proposed CST-100 commercial crew capsule.

[ Second in a series of posts about the companies that won and lost in NASA’s Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) competition ]

Boeing received the largest of the three CCiCap awards, at $460 million. That award covers 19 milestones and culminates in April 2014 with a critical design review (CDR). The work included in the agreement covers both CST-100 spacecraft tests as well as work on the Atlas V launch vehicle that will carry it, such as development of a dual-engine Centaur booster stage and tests of the rocket’s emergency detection system.

As you might expect, Boeing officials were pleased with the award. “We’re really excited about today’s announcement,” John Elbon, vice president and general manager of Boeing Space Exploration, said in a conference call Friday morning. “We certainly appreciate the confidence expressed by NASA in selecting us for the next phase of commercial crew development.”

One thing that sets Boeing’s bid apart, company officials said, was the breadth of capabilities at Boeing overall, including in its much larger aircraft business units. “One thing that we have really been aggressive at is looking across Boeing,” said John Mulholland, vice president and program manager of commercial programs within Boeing Space Exploration. “We have been able to bring in innovative approaches to the workflow, to our design. So from across Boeing we have been getting help on being able to incorporate innovative approaches to make our team and our product more efficient.”

Most of the work that Boeing will do under the CCiCap award will be to mature the design from the preliminary design review phase, which it completed under its previous commercial crew award, to the CDR. “We’re taking all the subsystems through design maturation, which includes across-the-board development tests,” said Mulholland. “Along the way we’ll be doing a number of risk-reduction tests.”

Boeing’s award was only slightly modified from what the company proposed in order to bring the total value down from $500 million, Mulholland said. “We were able to minimize any schedule slip” from reworking the milestones, he said. Boeing moved the completion of its structural test article out by about four months—the only milestone it changed—while keeping the CDR, the major goal of the overall CCiCap program, on schedule.

The CCiCap award keeps Boeing on track to be able to do a crewed flight test in late 2016, pending future funding to continue development beyond CDR. If they stay on schedule, that will take place 100 years after Bill Boeing founded the company that bears his name. “We have learned a lot over that time, and we’re applying that knowledge to commercial crew,” Elbon said. “It would be really sweet to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the company with the first crewed flight of the CST-100. It excited me a bit to think about that.”

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