Boeing enters into the space tourism race

An illustration of a large space-capable jet with a smaller piggyback shuttle to deliver space tourists to their destination.

Using a large rocket to pierce the atmosphere, a small capsule could be delivered to a low orbiting space station resort. (Photo Credit: CC BY-SA/df_btyhoo/Flickr)

Boeing has announced that it is prepared to enter into the upcoming mega-business of space tourism, reports the Houston Chronicle. Despite recently receiving $20 billion in government subsidies for transatlantic aerospace travel endeavors – a move labeled a violation of international trade law by World Trade Organization judges – Boeing is now knocking on President Obama’s door again. Now, the company wants the administration to increase funding for commercial spaceflight.

By 2015, Boeing wants space tourism to be a reality

Boeing’s expectation is that by 2015, space tourism will be possible via a NASA contract that will enable the manufacturer to send astronauts to the International Space Station via a new type of space capsule, the CST-100. The capsule would have enough seats to admit space tourists along for the ride, writes the Chronicle. Brewster Shaw, vice president and general manager of Boeing’s Space Exploration division, has affirmed Boeing’s belief that the CST-100 will make human space commerce possible. Currently, Boeing is partnered with the company Space Adventures, which brokered private flights to the International Space Station aboard Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft.

Boeing has the horses, but it hasn’t won the race yet

Globally, Boeing is the largest aircraft manufacturer in terms of revenue, orders and products delivered, indicates the Chronicle. The company is also the International Space Station’s prime contractor. But a number of hurdles must be cleared before the company comes to dominate the exciting, yet speculative, field of space tourism. It required $18 million to begin development of rockets and capsules to carry NASA astronauts to low-Earth orbit after the space shuttle program retires in 2011. However, plans for space tourism are estimated to be significantly more expensive. Other companies are competing for the business as well, which should force Boeing to push hard.

Obama wants Congress to free up money for commercial spacecraft

The numbers are flying fast and furious when it comes to just how much money the U.S. government is willing to funnel into commercial space flight. President Obama is seeking $6 billion over five years from Congress. The Senate’s latest offer is $1.3 billion over three years, while the House penned a $150 million, three-year version. Clearly there’s a large financial disconnect at work, guided by differing priorities. Without at least the amount of money the president is calling for, Boeing expects progress toward space tourism to be slow at best. If it cost Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté $40 million last year to fly to and from the International Space Station via Soyuz, imagine what propping up and entire industry would cost.


Houston Chronicle

Google Tech Talk on space tourism

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