Boeing renames CST-100 – the Starliner
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — In a nod to their Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Chris Ferguson revealed a new name for the firm’s CST-100 crew module: CST-100 Starliner. Ferguson is a former NASA astronaut and deputy manager of the Commercial Crew Program for Boeing.
Boeing hosted a grand opening of their Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility (C3PF) today at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The 78,000-square-foot (7,246 m2) facility is housed in the former space shuttle hangar, OPF-3.
The ceremony was attended by Florida Governor Rick Scott, Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, and KSC Director Robert Cabana among others. Officials from Boeing included Dennis A. Muilenburg, President and CEO; Chris Ferguson, deputy manager of the Commercial Crew Program; John Elbon, Vice President and General Manager of Space Exploration; and John Mulholland, vice president of Commercial Programs.
“Bob is an incredible leader for turning Kennedy Space Center into the kind of place that can host this kind of activity. We certainly would not be here today if it wasn’t for Bob Cabana,” Elbon said, crediting Cabana.
For his part, the four-time space shuttle veteran noted the progress that was being made toward having astronauts take to the skies toward the sole low-Earth orbit destination – the International Space Station – as well as points beyond.
Cabana said: “We truly have transformed into a multi-user spaceport. We had this vision for what we wanted to see here. We didn’t have to do this. Really, all we had to do was make SLS successful. This building could’ve been torn down. There could’ve been grass growing up between the concrete at pad 39A, and with the launchpad rusting away in the salt air.
“Instead, we have that awesome Boeing logo on the facility across the street. SpaceX is going like gangbusters at Pad 39A. We are enabling commercial space here at KSC. We will have a US company flying crews to the International Space Station instead of having to rely on our Russian partners. You can’t have progress without change.”
Boeing has taken to the new commercial era embraced by NASA. As noted by SpaceFlight Now, the adjacent OPF-1 has been tapped for processing of the secretive X-37B space plane.
“When I first arrived at OPF-3 a few years ago, there were tumbleweeds in the parking lot. And now, there are so many employees here, you can’t find a parking spot in the lot. What a wonderful feeling,” Ferguson said.
Upon completion of his comments, Ferguson turned the floor over to four-time shuttle astronaut and commander, as well as the space agency’s current Administrator, Charles Bolden.
Bolden said: “Back when Chris flew the final STS-135 flight, there was a big party out there. There was jubilation out there. You would’ve thought we were getting started on something. Little did we know back then that we were getting started on something. It is great to be here celebrating this milestone for commercial crew.
“If you are not excited, then there is something wrong with you. The road to space still blazes through KSC. It won’t be long until the smoke and fire here at Kennedy is from commercial rockets taking crew into space.”
“We celebrate and recognize the transformation of KSC into a bustling spaceport, with production and assembly workers all over east-central Florida,” Nelson said.
Florida Speaker of the House Steve Crisafulli introduced Governor Rick Scott, who said: “[…] this project would not have happened without the Florida legislature. I propose a budget, but the legislature has to approve it.”
He got a laugh from the audience when he quipped: “I want to recognize Boeing. I appreciate every Boeing announcement, but I have to say an announcement of the corporate headquarters relocating to Florida would be great. We have lower taxes, better weather […] I thank Boeing for their 1,400 jobs in Florida, but important for this area are the 554 jobs in Brevard County.”
Boeing’s Bill Mulholland noted that the spacecraft was coming together on site for a planned flight currently slated for the 2017–2018 time frame. Starliner’s upper and lower dome, tunnel, hatch, and service module were in a room adjacent to the presentation. If everything goes according to plan, the first Starliner will be powered up on May 1.
Ferguson was provided with the honor of revealing the spacecraft’s new moniker, at which time an overhead door was raised to reveal the CST-100 hardware in the next room – and those in attendance applauded.
Boeing is one of two companies under contract through NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to restore America’s ability to launch crews to the space station from the United States. Today’s events served to officially debut the C3PF, which is home to Boeing’s newly-named Starliner spacecraft.
When asked, Boeing’s Vice President and General Manager of Space Exploration, John Elbon, provided SpaceFlight Insider with a little inside information about how the capsule got its new name.
“It was Chris that drove that through. It had to go through the Boeing branding police. It plays on the Dreamliner name. It is still a journey, whether across the ocean or through space. We took some extra care after the Vulcan name had some challenges,” Elbon said referring to the issues United Launch Alliance encountered recently with their new Vulcan launch system.
The Starliner is planned to be launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida. The first flight of the vehicle is currently planned to take place in the 2017–2018 time frame. NASA is currently working with a two-pronged approach toward returning to the business of space travel.
Private firms Boeing and SpaceX will field their respective Starliner and Dragon vehicles; sending crews to the orbiting laboratory. Meanwhile, the space agency will work to send astronauts to destinations far beyond Earth, such as an asteroid and potentially the planet Mars.
Video courtesy of Boeing / NASA
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