2016 a pivotal year for Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner
One of the two companies competing under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP), Boeing, is looking to take large strides in the development and production of their CST-100 “Starliner” spacecraft in 2016. Key facilities needed to produce the capsule-shaped vehicle will be readied for use and the aerospace giant has already provided key members of NASA with a look at the systems to familiarize them with the vehicle.
Two of the four astronauts that have been selected to carry out the first flights under the CCP, Eric Boe and Bob Behnken, recently reviewed some of the systems that the Starliner will have incorporated into its design via a simulator. The duo got an advanced peek at what are referred to as “trainers” that will simulate how the spacecraft is expected to perform.
“We have been learning about the spacecraft displays through slideshows. It’s great to finally see what we are actually going to train on,” Boe said. “The trainers look great, and this visit gives us an opportunity to meet with the Boeing engineers. We appreciate them allowing us to give input on these trainers so the devices are ready when they arrive at Johnson Space Center.”
The veteran astronauts focused on the trainers’ systems that will help allow them to manipulate the Starliner’s display panels and switches.
“Historically, some trainers were just a simple component that might have a very specific task,” Boe added. “This one has a lot of capability with multiple tasks coming together so it can execute more complicated training scenarios.”
According to a release issued by the company, Behnken added that the training equipment is comprehensive. However, the pair will have to wait until this fall before they can use the trainers at the astronauts’ headquarters located at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
Boeing is doing more to help crews get accustomed to the Starliner’s key operating systems; the company is constructing what it describes as an “immersive, high-fidelity training system” for the crews to use. It is expected that this new facility will be ready for use in early 2017 – just in time before the first test flights of the spacecraft that are set to take place later that year.
Boeing is expecting to complete more milestones in 2016 prior to the critical test flights. Some of these include the completion of the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility high bay facility and Boeing Vehicle control center facility located at Kennedy Space Center located in Florida.
The first of three flight vehicles, the Structural Test Article, should be completed in 2016; it will then be sent to Boeing’s Huntington Beach facility for testing in the summer.
Later this year, the second flight vehicle, the Qualification Test Vehicle, should begin undergoing construction.
Video courtesy of Boeing
Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.