Boeing CST-100
Boeing has proposed developing a version of its CST-100 crew spacecraft to transport cargo to and from the International Space Station. (credit: Boeing illustration)

NEW YORK — Boeing has teamed up with a private spaceflight marketing firm to sell passenger seats for flights of its planned space capsule.

Under the agreement, Vienna, Va.-based Space Adventures will market passenger seats on commercial flights aboard the Boeing Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 spacecraft, currently being designed to travel to the international space station (ISS) as well as future private space stations.

The capsule seats could go to space tourists, individual companies or other nongovernment groups, as well as U.S. federal agencies other than NASA.

“We want to expand beyond flying astronauts just to the ISS,” said Brewster Shaw, vice president and general manager of Houston-based Boeing Space Exploration, in a Sept. 15 press conference. “Very few people have made it to orbit of our species — probably a little over 500 out of 6 or 7 billion people. That’s not enough. We want to see many more have that opportunity.”

The first test flights of the CST-100 space capsule are slated to launch by 2015, Boeing officials said. The capsule is designed to launch atop an expendable rocket.

Space Adventures has successfully contracted and flown seven spaceflight participants on eight separate missions to the ISS. As one of the leading suppliers of human space systems and services, Boeing also has a strong heritage in the industry, company officials said.

“By combining our talents, we can better offer safe, affordable transportation to commercial spaceflight customers,” Shaw said. “If NASA and the international partners continue to accommodate commercial spaceflight participants on ISS, this agreement will be in concert with the NASA administrator’s stated intent to promote space commerce in low Earth orbit.”

The two companies have yet to set a per-seat price for the CST-100 capsule, but did say it will be competitive with the current Russian launches on Soyuz spacecraft used by Space Adventures. The last passenger trip to the ISS — the October 2009 trip of Canadian billionaire Guy Laliberte — cost about $40 million, Space Adventures officials said.

“We’re not ready to talk about the price yet,” said Eric Anderson, co-founder and chairman of Space Adventures. “Certainly a lot of that comes from the launch vehicle choice, including what the destination is and what the experience is.”

Boeing’s CST-100 spacecraft is approximately 4.5 meters wide and can carry up to seven people. The cone-shaped capsule will look similar to NASA’s Apollo and Orion spacecraft.

The company has set a design requirement that the CST-100 be reusable up to 10 times. The number of times the capsule is reused, however, will depend upon inspection after touchdown.

Boeing’s initial work on CST-100 is being funded with the help of $18 million it was awarded this year under NASA’s Commercial Crew Development program. The program aims to advance the concepts and technology required to build a commercial crew space transportation system capable of flying astronauts to the ISS and other low Earth orbit destinations.

“We are excited about the potential to offer flights on Boeing’s spacecraft,” Anderson said. “With our customer experience and Boeing’s heritage in human spaceflight, our goal is not only to benefit the individuals who fly to space, but also to help make the resources of space available to the commercial sector by bringing the value from space back to Earth.”