Representatives from the three different companies chosen by NASA to develop private space taxis to carry astronauts to orbit say their vehicles are making substantial progress toward launching people into orbit within the next few years.
The companies — Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX), The Boeing Company, and Sierra Nevada Corp. — are competing to fill the gap left by NASA’s retired space shuttles for the launching of cargo and crews to the International Space Station. Each private space taxi firm has received funding from NASA under the Commercial Crew integrated Capability program (CCiCap) to complete a series of development milestones with the goal of taking over transportation to low-Earth orbit from the Russians.
“We’re going great guns, we’re working very hard, and we hope to have people flying very soon inside the Dragon,” SpaceX’s commercial crew project manager Garrett Reisman said Wednesday (Oct. 17) here at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight.
SpaceX’s Dragon space capsule has already made two unmanned flights to the International Space Station this year under NASA’s cargo delivery program. Work now is focused on outfitting the capsule to carry up to seven people by adding a launch abort capability and life support system, as well as designing spacesuits and the crew cabin layout.
The vehicle, which launches on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, could make its first crewed test flights in mid-2015, Reisman said.
Meanwhile, aerospace veteran Boeing is working on its CST-100 vehicle, a capsule intended to fly atop United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rocket, which has a proven track record launching unmanned satellites. The CST-100 is designed to carry up to seven people, and return to touch down on land via parachutes and airbags.