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The Boeing Space Taxi


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Boeing and SpaceX have both received pretty hefty NASA contracts for their capsule designs that will hopefully one day soon be shuttling U.S. astronauts to and from the International Space Station. The purpose by both companies is to cut the cost to the U.S. and regain a sense of national being by not relying on another country to get into space. Boeing’s capsule has been designed with one extra seat in the capsule which has not been put there for scientists or military astronauts but for tourists.

Boeing’s Contract with NASAboeing 1

The five year, 4.2 billion dollar contract that Boeing has with NASA allows for Boeing to be able to sell rides into space one seat at a time. The Boeing Commercial Crew Program’s Manager John Mulholland has announced that the company plans to copy what the Russians have been doing for years, by allowing tourists into space. While this may sound both exciting and nerve wrecking, not everyone can afford a ride to the International Space Station (ISS). The ISS is currently orbiting about 260 miles above the Earth and is worth roughly 100 billion dollars. While the company has not officially released what Boeing will charge, they have stated that the rates will be competitive with their Russian counterpart. Boeing hopes to start working with a Virginia based tourism broker, Space Adventures, that already helps tourists arrange for trips to the ISS now. Mulholland is quoted stating, “Part of our proposal into NASA would be flying a Space Adventure spaceflight participant up to the ISS…We think it would be important to help spur this industry.”

Tourism to the ISS

Space Adventures believes that the future of thrill seekers that can afford the hefty price tag will love the opportunity to vacation in space. Come January, British singer Sarah Brightman will begin training with Space Adventures for her 10 day visit to the ISS. For ten days in space and the ability to be taxied to and from is costing Brightman 52 million dollars according to a spokesman from Space Adventure. Brightman will soon become the eighth passenger who will have paid to visit the ISS.

There is another very important reason that Boeing wants to push for allowing paying tourists to hitch a ride on their rockets and capsule, profit. Under their newly signed contract with NASA, Boeing is responsible for any overages on cost that this program may accrue. Also if there are any delays Boeing is also responsible for the costs of that as well. Boeing believes that they will be able to produce the space taxi without having to lower the profit price point which will affect their profit margins. The aerospace company believes that commercial flights to the ISS will help them fluff their bottom line. And if anything is important to Boeing it is their bottom line which should be important because Boeing is sharing their glory with one of their biggest industry rivals, Space Exploration Technologies or SpaceX.

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Competition with SpaceX

While both Boeing and SpaceX have landed contracts with NASA for similar designs for a space taxi, both companies are in constant competition with each other. Boeing really has to knuckle down because of the competition with SpaceX which has claimed that in the same time givern to Boeing they will be able to produce a capsule for 40 percent less than what Boeing has stated or for roughly 2.6 billion dollars. The biggest difference between the two companies when it comes to cost seems to be with the type of rockets being used. SpaceX’s Dragon Capsule will fly on the company’s self produced Falcon 9 rocket which currently costs about 61 million dollars per satellite delivery. Boeing’s CST-100 capsule will be flying aboard an Atlas 5 rocket which is produced by United Launch Alliance. The company is a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin Corporation and the rockets are powered by a Russian RD-180 engine which costs about 150 million dollars each! While competition with SpaceX may be rough, the space taxi project appears to be well within the capabilities of Boeing’s core abilities which advocates that the company will not have any trouble in meeting either its deadline or its targeted delivery schedule.

Boeing’s space taxi program is not all that different from the program projected by SpaceX. The company is looking to make a substantial profit from the NASA contract as well as the ability it may have by being able to shuttle paying tourists to and from the ISS. The space taxi program is one of the first steps taken by Boeing, SpaceX and NASA in order to cease the dependency by the U.S. on Russia in order to shuttle astronauts to and from the ISS which is currently costing the U.S. 71 million dollars per seat. Boeing which has been at the forefront of U.S. aerospace technology for nearly all of its history is looking to maintain that tradition onto the next frontier.

 

 

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