Spaceflight Insider

Boeing selects new contractor for CST-100 hatch

Artist's conception of Boeing's CST-100. Image Credit: Boeing

Artist's conception of Boeing's CST-100. Image Credit: Boeing

Boeing has selected a new subcontractor to develop eight parts for the CST-100 space capsule as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP), which outsources to private companies to return American astronauts into space after the retirement of the Space Shuttle. D-J Engineering will manufacture the hatch and the hatch frame, as well as frangible joints, which enable stages of the rocket to separate safely.

Boeing has a long history with NASA. The aerospace giant manufactured the first stage of the giant Saturn V rocket that propelled American astronauts to the Moon. Boeing also provided the 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), and in 1996 bought all of Rockwell International’s aerospace assets, including the Space Shuttle orbiter. At that time, Boeing and Lockheed Martin formed the United Space Alliance (USA), which remained NASA’s partner in day-to-day operations of the Space Shuttle until the end of the program in 2011. In collaboration with Bigelow Aerospace, Boeing has been working on the CST-100 since 2010, and in September 2014 was awarded the majority contract, along with SpaceX, to fly astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).

D-J Engineering CEO Rezaul Chowdhury. Photo Credit: Rezaul Chowdhury

D-J Engineering CEO Rezaul Chowdhury. Photo Credit: Rezaul Chowdhury

D-J Engineering is no stranger to rocket programs either. Based in Augusta, Kansas, D-J is a manufacturer of machine parts, composites, sheet metal fabrication, large assemblies, composites assemblies, extrusions, various types of hot forming, and reverse engineering to support the aerospace and defense Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM). It also runs a certified FAA repair station.

Previously, D-J has worked on United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV rocket as well as NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS)—also a Boeing project—and this work led to the company’s contract for the CST-100.

Ryan Hernandez, D-J’s vice president of engineering and technology, said, “It definitely all started with Delta.”

In addition to its history with rocket programs, D-J has worked on numerous projects throughout the aerospace industry, including the outboard strut for the B-52 bomber, the smoker oil tank assembly for the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels, the Cabin Auxiliary Fuel Tank (CAFT) assembly for Lockheed’s C-130 aircraft and the radome repair for the same aircraft. Significant to its work on the CST-100, D-J constructed the crew entry door for Boeing’s KC-135, which involved twenty subassemblies, as well as the spoiler—a device which reduces lift.

The innovative interior of the CST-100. Photo Credit: Boeing

The innovative interior of the CST-100. Photo Credit: Boeing

D-J was founded by two Boeing engineers in 1992. Later, it was sold to Rezaul Chowdhury. Today the company has operations in Augusta and Conway Springs. It also operates manufacturing facilities in the Philippines and Newfoundland, Canada.

Boeing’s CST-100 is a space capsule designed to transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station and to Bigelow’s planned space station. It can accommodate up to seven passengers or a mix of crew and cargo. Although it resembles the Apollo spacecraft of the 1960s and 1970s, the CST-100 uses an innovative weldless design and advanced electronics including LED sky-lighting, wireless internet, and tablet technology. The CST-100 is designed to be launched by Atlas V rockets. Its first crewed flight is planned for 2017.

NASA administrator and former astronaut Charlie Bolden told a press conference in January, “I don’t ever want to have to write another check to Roscosmos after 2017.”



Collin R. Skocik has been captivated by space flight since the maiden flight of space shuttle Columbia in April of 1981. He frequently attends events hosted by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, and has met many astronauts in his experiences at Kennedy Space Center. He is a prolific author of science fiction as well as science and space-related articles. In addition to the Voyage Into the Unknown series, he has also written the short story collection The Future Lives!, the science fiction novel Dreams of the Stars, and the disaster novel The Sunburst Fire. His first print sale was Asteroid Eternia in Encounters magazine. When he is not writing, he provides closed-captioning for the hearing impaired. He lives in Atlantic Beach, Florida.

Reader Comments

“I don’t ever want to have to write another check to Roscosmos after 2017.”

Get rid of that useless LEO space station and go back to the Moon and you can stop writing them right now.

@BANDYETAGIN and going to the moon is useful? What to build up the national regolith collection? Time to move on from the 70s. Mars mission would be interesting and challenging but I am not sure it would be even as useful as the ISS.

“-going to the moon is useful?”

Many people seem to think so besides me. The NewSpace crowd does not seem to read much except SpaceX advertisements so they might not be aware of that.

Ferris Valyn

I am sorry, but when did MoonEx and other GLXP teams become anti-moon? For that matter, when did Bigelow become anti-Moon?

You’d be surprised what I read and no one brought up SpaceX except yourself. I am not against going to the moon; I am against the delusion that human deep space missions are practically useful for anything for a very very long time. Don’t bring up H-3 mining, this is the punchline to an economics joke. Don’t bring up telescope on the dark side as it would be way cheaper/easier just to park a big telescope in an L-Point. Sending humans to the moon the first time was about as “useful” as the long jump in the Olympics. Again I am all for it but don’t delude yourself.

If you are “not sure it would be even as useful as the ISS” then, again- I would be surprised if you read anything besides SpaceX advertisements. LEO has been a dead end for over 40 years- endless circles.

“Don’t bring up H-3 mining,”

You did. I will bring up the ice at the poles.

“Don’t bring up telescope on the dark side,”

Sorry, but the RADIO TELESCOPE on the dark side was such an excellent project that anyone who says otherwise is “deluded.”

“Again I am all for it but don’t delude yourself.”

Oh yes, you are all for it. It is so obvious. I have observed that being honest seems incredibly difficult for some people.

Oh, your business plan is to move water ice from the moon to anyplace else with positive economic value? It isn’t economical to move water to the west coast from the mid-west on Earth….

For the RT project nothing demands human spaceflight from what I can tell of the article. Precise, autonomous EDL is pretty much already here so build an RT on the dark side and no humans needed onsite. You can persuade Congress to pull the funding for Mars exploration and put a RT on the Moon great…

Ferris Valyn

I’d ask that you explain why “LEO is a dead-end”, but I am a little afraid that I’ll get another ramble of vaguely connected parts. Or why LEO can’t help to build and re-enforce a BEO project, which could include landing on the moon, or building a moonbase.

For example, Bigelow Aerospace is one of the biggest proponants of property rights precisely because they are interested in putting habitats on the moon (see the payload review the had through the AST).

Gary Warburton

If we want to go to deep Space for long periods of time we have the perfect place to learn at ISS. There is much to learn before we even make an attempt from water re-cycling, to toilets to air scrubbing. The list is endless because there will be no chance to learn about such things when you are millions of miles from nowhere and no chance to get spare parts. We have to know if we`ll need a rotating torus to create artificial gravity for instance it would be no good going to Mars if the astronauts can`t walk when they get there. There is much testing and learning to do before we go anywhere in deep space.

Exactly. Bigelow has a much better chance of sustaining an actual business case, which will require human activity in space, rather than another flags and footsteps mission on the moon by NASA. No one can remotely come up with a feasible economic model for doing anything with moon resources other than use them on the moon itself. And no one can give a good use case for large amounts of people on the moon. LEO/MEO/GEO is not only not a dead-end it is the only thing that is driving economic activity in space and therefore progress. The kind of progress that will allow for future deep-space activity.

How did Boeing get the “majority contract”? That’s a misleading statement. Are they contracted for more flights than SpaceX? No. Or is it that their proposal is so expensive, they needed more money? Yes.

You misunderstand the definition of the legal term “majority contract”. It does not mean Boeing gets the most money or more flights than SpaceX. While a lawyer could provide you with a better definition, in this context, “majority contract” is essentially the same as stating that Boeing is the prime contractor with the majority interest in CST-100 (as opposed to subcontractors like D-J Engineering which has a minority interest) just as SpaceX has a majority contract for Dragon V2.

\It should be pointed out that Boeing has moved from a prime designer and contractor role on most of its programs to one of prime integrator. The 787 is a perfect example. Many organizations in many countries both designed and build major portions and subassemblies of the aircraft. This included the ill fated battery packs which have caught fire and caused groundings of the fleet. These batteries have been described as the worst design possible and totally bungled by Boeing in their responsibilities. The main question is, Can NASA effort to allow Boeing to repeat this process on spacecraft carrying US astronauts and civilians? When any loss of life in space brings up questions of weather the space program can survive…. Can NASA afford that? SpaceX outsources very little of their work so can be considered the final word in design and responsibility for the vehicle and its launcher in this case. I am not a Boeing hater or necessarily a SpaceX fanboy, but I do know what proper business practices are. Boeing’s history suggests they should too.

Thanks for the clarification. So Boeing has more subcontractors on the CST-100 than SpaceX has on the Crew Dragon. Thus the term majority contract.

Um… no. I can only assume you are making some sort of obtuse joke.

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