WASHINGTON — Boeing Space Exploration of Houston said Aug. 4 it intends to buy three Atlas 5 rockets from United Launch Alliance (ULA) for test flights of its planned CST-100 crew capsule, being developed with $110 million in NASA seed money to carry astronauts to the international space station and other low Earth orbit destinations.
John Elbon, vice president and program manager of Boeing’s commercial crew programs, told reporters the company plans four test flights of the CST-100, assuming NASA selects Boeing next year for a development contract with sufficient funding.
The first of CST-100’s test flights, a launch pad abort test planned for 2014, would not require a booster. Starting in 2015, Boeing would use Atlas 5 to conduct an unmanned orbital flight of the CST-100 followed by an in-flight test of the capsule’s abort system. The first manned flight of the CST-100 is targeted for late 2015, with two Boeing test pilots at the controls.
Elbon said Boeing reviewed bids from Space Exploration Technologies Corp. and Alliant Techsystems before selecting the Atlas 5. He said the selection has already been vetted by the Federal Trade Commission, an antitrust enforcement agency, “to assure that the decision wasn’t biased by the fact that Boeing is a partial owner of ULA.”
Alliant Techsystems spokesman George Torres said his company expressed interest in launching the CST-100 but did not submit a formal bid.
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