Fearing it’s falling behind, Boeing may ramp up commercial crew investment

In the latest round of awards in NASA’s commercial crew program, Boeing won the largest amount of money, $460 million, versus SpaceX’s $440 million and Sierra Nevada’s $212 million. NASA officials noted at the time that the dollar values in the awards were not intended to be a ranking of the companies, but it was clear that Boeing and SpaceX were the frontrunners. However, it’s Boeing that may be worried it’s falling behind.

In Sunday’s Florida Today, former NASA astronaut Chris Ferguson, who is now the head of crew and mission operations for Boeing’s commercial crew effort, said the company is thinking about increasing its own investment to keep up with SpaceX. Boeing’s CST-100 is currently scheduled to make its first crewed test flight in late 2016, while SpaceX is planning a mid-2015 crewed test flight of its Dragon spacecraft. “We’re looking heavily into getting some additional Boeing investment to move that (late 2016) date to the left significantly, which we think we need to do to keep pace with SpaceX,” Ferguson told Florida Today.

Any additional investment would address one key weakness in Boeing’s proposal for the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) award it won. The selection statement from NASA noted that Boeing’s “proposed corporate investment during the CCiCap period does not provide significant industry financial investment and there is increased risk of having insufficient funding in the base period.” The amount of Boeing’s proposed investment was redacted in the Space Act Agreement document released by NASA.

1 comment to Fearing it’s falling behind, Boeing may ramp up commercial crew investment

  • Coastal Ron

    This is a good development – if it happens.

    Boeing is even acknowledging that SpaceX has a one-year lead on Boeing for doing their first test flights, so maybe this means they don’t feel confident that enough money will be available from NASA for a second crew transportation provider if there is too much of a gap between when the first and second providers are certified. That Congress could, in order to save money, just go with SpaceX, who could be ready well before everyone else with a vehicle that already has a lot of heritage behind it.

    So Boeing may be figuring that they need to invest more to ensure their current investment doesn’t go to waste. Of course that is a pure business-approach analysis, but there is the possibility that Boeing could truly be interested in establishing themselves as a future choice for space transportation – that as a company they are willing to make a long-term investment to be one of the key transportation providers. I hope for the later, but if it means they add more investment, I’ll take either.

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