Spaceflight Insider

Boeing’s CST-100 to compete for space station resupply contract

Boeing logo as seen on Spaceflight Insider

Image Credit: Boeing / Rob Bulmahn

After winning NASA’s Commercial Crew contract with SpaceX this fall, Boeing now plans to compete for the opportunity to deliver cargo to the space station. The announcement stems from an interview earlier this month where Boeing expressed their interest in joining fellow commercial space companies Orbital Sciences and SpaceX—whom won the original contract in 2008.

The Commercial Resupply Services (CRS1) program offers the opportunity to deliver space station cargo in order to minimize costs and maximize efficiency between different companies.

The official NASA submission form states that:

The primary purpose of this Request For Information (RFI) is to inform industry of NASA’s resupply service requirements and to collect information on key parameters that would help NASA refine and mature the follow on acquisition plan for procuring safe, cost effective, timely, and reliable ISS research and cargo resupply, disposal, and return services.

The current contract-holders, SpaceX and Orbital Sciences, were locked in to provide a minimum of 12 resupply flights to the International Space Station over the course of several years. Without these flights, astronauts aboard the ISS must rely on the Russian Progress spacecraft in order to receive necessities such as food and hardware.

Due to the increasing need for space station resupply missions, NASA opened submissions for the Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS2) contract earlier this year. As of Dec 2, proposals are now closed and under review.

Boeing's CST-100 'Space Taxi.' as seen on Spaceflight Insider

Boeing’s CST-100 ‘Space Taxi.’ Image Credit: Boeing

According to Boeing, the CST-100 spacecraft that would potentially be flying these cargo missions is a modified version of the one that is set to transport astronauts. Features like the launch abort system and the environmental controls will be removed to allow more space for the payload.

Like SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, the CST-100 will also have the capability to bring supplies and disposable materials back to Earth intact. Unlike Dragon, however, the CST-100 has the unique ability to return on land, versus the classic splash-down operation.

Although Boeing is busy readying the CST-100 for future manned flights, they are also following in SpaceX’s footsteps by offering their modifiable spacecraft as a multi-use vehicle. SpaceX is currently the only company to hold both the Commercial Crew and the CRS1 contracts.

Both current CRS1 contract holders are rumored to have submitted new proposals in order to continue their services to NASA. They are also joined by a proposal from Sierra Nevada Corporation, who was a runner-up with the Commercial Crew program with their Dream Chaser spacecraft. Most details regarding who applied and attended the pre-proposal conferences have remained anonymous, however.

Although it is not yet clear how many contracts NASA will award, the total contract value will be $14 billion. NASA is scheduled to announce the winner (or winners) of this opportunity on June 10, 2015 with the corresponding missions starting sometime in 2018.


This article was produced using NASA documents and stems from a report written by Jeff Foust that appeared on Space News 

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Britt Rawcliffe is a professional freelance aerospace and aviation photographer based out of Pennsylvania with over six years of professional photographic experience. Her creative imagery has spanned into all areas relating to space, including launches, photojournalism, architecture, and portraiture. Britt’s passion for history has been a common thread in much of her work, including having photographed many Moonwalkers such as Buzz Aldrin and Gene Cernan.

Reader Comments

Has the CST-100 made a successful landing on ground yet?

“Unlike Dragon, however, the CST-100 has the unique ability to return on land, versus the classic splash-down operation.”

“Unlike Dragon, however, the CST-100 has the unique ability to return on land, versus the classic splash-down operation.”

Dear Britt,
Unlike Dragon 2, CST-100 cannot land propulsively on land.
Dragon 2 is more advanced than Boeings’ CST-100.

Unlike Dragon 2, CST-100 cannot land propulsively on land.
Dragon 2 is more advanced than Boeings’ CST-100.
Slipx’s Dragon cannot land propulsively on land

The land landing is not u ique. Boeing will land via airbag system in new mexico. Until it perfects its propulsive landing option, SpaceX will also land its Dragon 2 via parachutes on land. Only the dragon 1 was water landing dependent.

Boeing makes great spacecraft. Some observers feel that the contract may be won by the same current two providers. The price of Dragon + Falcon maybe a lot lower than Atlas + CST-100. Will Spacex be offering Dragon, a modified Dragon or Dragon 2 for CRS?

Since Boeing may use the Atlas V, will Boeing and NASA have to account that ULA is moving towards a new first stage and take that risk into consideration? I guess that would be similar for when SpaceX moved to another version of Falcon?

too bad for Boeing the RD-180 on the Atlas is Russian (and now banned by law from being purchased)….they’d better get those rd-180 replacement rockets built and tested or they’ll have to use a trampoline like the Russians said.

Your information is wrong. Rd-180 is not banned. There is an inventory on hand, new purchases planned, and an evential replacement engine in development.

Just arent happy enough are ya Boeing??? Ya already snaked the largest portion of the Commercial Crew contract, without even launching one actual spacecraft based on legacy. Now your to muscle in on the Commercial Resupply Contract. Be happy with what you have.

Boeing is bidding on the contract in accordance with nasa’s plans to have competition and system redundancy. They received the outsized share of CCtCap because they have more work to do to get an integrated launch system developed, which NASA wants for redundancy. spaceX has a headstart since Nasa funded their booster and version 1 vehicle developemnt already for the CRS 1 contract. In fairness, you have to consider the funding NASA previously provided SpaceX via contract to compare. NASA Wants two complete systems.

Is SpaceX happy with what it has? They are supplying cargo to ISS. SHOULD THEY NOT BE ALLOWED TO BID FOR CREW PROGRAM?

Really I’d like to see proof of this? Because they haven’t posted any proof of it unlike the other companies who are vying for the contracts who have provided proof of actual launchable spacecraft! Not to mention they already have the largest part of the commercial crew contract! They havent even produced a flyable spacecraft yet. SpaceX has produced the worldsfirst complete commercial rocket system and capsule in the 21st century, Gary! Boeing has also produced the rocket systems along with Lockheed, also known as United Launch Alliance the major contractor to supply launch vehicles to NASA and the military. I like Boeing don’t get me wrong but I’m sorry that’s called cronyism dude and I don’t like that if you did not provide a spacecraft prior and a proven spacecraft prior, then you should not be getting the largest part of the contract pie.

Orbital better watch out, the advanced competition is now bidding. Boeing and SNC can return cargo which Orbital cannot. And I’m sure NASA will take this into consideration along with ground landing being a huge advantage in recovery efforts and expense.

Tom…where is the Boeing craft? Do we have anything more than models and paperwork? Or will this be another ‘legacy’ pat on the back award?

boeing is building four craft as we speak.


I think Orbital is fine. I think Orbital may be the only company offering waste disposal via re-entry.

I don’t see Boeing or Sierra Nevada beating out SpaceX or Orbital in the second cargo contract unless they alter their vehicles drastically. One of them may get a smaller award to augment the main two.

Dream chaser weighs so much more than the capsules, all that dead weight has to be launched with the cargo and paid for. Why spend launch funds for launching 10,000 pounds of dead weight?

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