WASHINGTON — Almost two years after announcing plans to build its crew-carrying CST-100 spacecraft in an old space shuttle hangar at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Boeing Space Exploration finalized its lease on the building, the company said.
In October 2011, Boeing Space Exploration of Houston unveiled plans to lease the Orbiter Processing Facility-3 from Space Florida, the state’s aerospace economic development agent, to build capsules it hopes will be used to ferry astronauts to the international space station beginning in 2017. Space Florida leased the hangar from NASA to save it from demolition after the space shuttle program ended in July 2011.
Boeing still has not moved into the building, now called the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility, which is in the midst of a two-part renovation by Space Florida. The first round of work wrapped up in February; the second began in September. Boeing expects to move in by “spring 2014,” the company said in an Oct. 22 press release.
Boeing is one of three companies competing to become NASA’s post-shuttle provider of astronaut transportation to and from the space station under the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. In the third round of this program, which is set to wrap up in August, Boeing, Sierra Nevada Space Systems and Space Exploration Technologies Corp. split $1.1 billion in NASA funding for development work on their respective spacecraft designs.
Boeing received the largest award, $460 million, for the CST-100. The capsule would launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket. If the company receives funding under the fourth round of the program — this would fund final spacecraft development and testing, and initial astronaut missions to the space station — Boeing plans to launch a crewed CST-100 test flight in 2016.
NASA has drawn up a draft solicitation for the fourth funding round, which is known as Commercial Crew Integrated Capability. Prior to the 16-day government shutdown that began Oct. 1, the agency had expected to release a final solicitation in October, with at least one award to follow in the summer.
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