NASA heard Boeing`s proposal to extend its first test flight of the commercial CST-100 Starliner crew capsule. The extension asked was to be made from two weeks to six months, along with an additional crew member. The capsule is headed to the International Space Station.
As per Boeing`s request, the contract was re-done. .The updated contract also allows Boeing`s Starliner to carry cargo. The main idea behind this proposal of Boeing was to evade any delay for regular crew rotation flights to fly to and fro the space station.
NASA spokesperson said that they would like to appreciate this initiative of Boeing that they are ready to evolve their spacecrafts for commercial service so soon. This way NASA gets to have continued space access for their astronauts. NASA also hinted that they would be ready for a similar contract update for SpaceX as well, if the latter proposes to go that way.
With NASA re-scheduling their plans completely, they expect Boeing and SpaceX to stay true to their proposal and meet deadlines by quickening their development work.
Boeing is all set with structural testing and has plans to conduct a pad abort test for verification of the CST-100’s safety. This is to test if the CST-100 is ready to carry a crew from an exploding rocket on the actual launch pad.
SpaceX also is gearing up with a vacuum test of their Crew Dragon spacecraft. They will also run a full and final qualification test of their parachutes and see through an in-flight abort test. The latter is to determine if the capsule will be able to get away from a launch failure post a liftoff.
When the crew demonstration flights of both the contractors are successfully completed, SpaceX and Boeing will receive formal certifications by NASA for starting regular crew rotation flights that can carry four crew members at once to and fro space station. The spacecraft stays docked at the complex up to seven months to serve as an emergency lifeboat for crew members.
NASA`s previous monetary contract with Boeing is for around $4.2 billion whereas its contract with SpaceX, stands at around $2.6 billion. NASA officials refused to disclose if the updated contracts had any change in their respective monetary value.
The CST-100 is scheduled to return to Earth with the help of parachutes in the form of an airbag-cushioned landing in New Mexico, California, Utah or Arizona. The Crew Dragon on the other hand is scheduled to land in the Atlantic Ocean (Florida’s coast).