NASA taps SpaceX, Boeing to bring space travel back under America's wing
Tonight, NASA, Spacex, Boeing, three organizations joining forces to send crew to the International Space Station and hopefully fight crime like the super friends.
But why does NASA need Boeing and Spacex anyway?
And in these newfound partnerships, who's gonna make the friendship bracelets?
I'm Claire Reilly, welcome to Watch This Space.
From the cnet studios in Sydney, this is your guide to everything on earth to know about space.
And tonight, we're kicking off the New Year with a look at NASA's bizarre love triangle.
That's right, NASA is teaming up with Boeing and Spacex to get to space faster with the commercial crew program or CCP, not CCI.
There we go.
The CCP is NASA's public private partnership.
Setup to develop new spacecraft and launch systems to send humans into low earth orbit and to the international space station.
It's NASA's equivalent of saying, we've been shooting humans into space for 50 years.
We're pretty bloody sick of paying hurdle.
But commercial crew programs sounds a little less spicy.
The idea is to outsource work to make NASA's space program more cost effective, while making sure it can still send crew to the ISS.
It's like mom encouraging her feckless teenage son to get a job at Burger King.
Sure NASA is happy to provide the astronauts who work on the ISS, but you better believe its not going to keep driving them to work in the NASA's station wagon.
I mean, Kobe, your friend Elon just got a car.
Can't you get a ride with him?
NASA is no stranger to working with other companies to get its missions off the proverbial and literal ground.
It's worked with Lockheed Martin to develop supersonic aircraft.
It's made a virtual crew member with Xerox.
And it's even signed an agreement with Uber to explore the future of urban air mobility.
Which is grown up master talk for, "Sweet merciful crap, flying cars!" But this time NASA is trusting SpaceX and Boeing with its most precious resource.
No, not moon money, astronauts.
All American astronauts launching off all American soil.
Ever since NASA wrapped up its space shuttle program in 2011, the government agency has had to rely on other countries to get its astronauts into space.
And that's fine until someone has to go and tell the boss that one of America's astronauts just had to abort a launch in Kazakhstan because its Russian-made rocket was on the fritz.
But last year's Soyuz launch aside, it's fair for NASA to want some skin in the game.
After all, this is America's space agency, and America is as America does.
And so, America done gon found a way to lauch it's space patriots from the land of the free and home made rockets, or as I like to call them, Yankee tanks.
So, in the famous words of the Samurai Pizza Cats theme song, who do you call when you want a pepperoni?
Well, if by pepperoni you mean a viable human transportation system to deliver astronauts to the ISS, then the answer is Boeing and Space Eggs.
Speaking of, let's take a look at these two suitors vying for NASA's attention.
It's like that episode of Beverly HIlls 90210 when Dylan had to chose between Brenda and Kelly.
Boeing is the Brenda.
A long time stable partner with 100 years of history there for Nessa through thick and thin.
Boeing's relationship with Nessa goes all the way back to the epolar days.
It built the first stage of the Saturn 5 rocket for the moon landing.
It makes sense for NASA to choose Boeing.
They know each other, there' s connection.
But then, there's SpaceX.
The blonde haired Kelly Taylor of the private space industry.
It's only just hit the scene, but it's got its eyes on NASA and since their summer fling, they're making waves.
Kelly, I mean SpaceX, has the looks, it has the money, and just like the original Beverly Hills 90210 It has a weird, eccentric brother who's determined to bore under the streets of LA to build a secret underground tunnel network for the super rich.
But this isn't 90210, and these two companies don't have to compete for NASA's attention using monogrammed cupcakes.
They both have roles to play.
For its part, Boeing is building a crew space transportation capsule known as the CST-100 Starliner.
According to Boeing, the Starliner can fit seven passengers.
For missions to the ISS it will carry up to four NASA-sponsored crew as well as time-critical scientific research, which we all know is code for new episodes of Game of Thrones.
The reusable spacecraft can be used up to ten times.
It can land on solid ground rather than in the ocean.
And there are backup controls inside for the pilot as well as wireless internet.
Not to be out-done, SpaceX calls its spacecraft the Dragon because Elon Musk.
The crew Dragon as a capsule for crew with onboard controls as well as a trunk which carries un-pressurized cargo and the spacecraft's solar arrays.
The Dragon made history in 2012, when it became the first privately owned spacecraft to send cargo to the ISS.
But it's always been designed for people too, and even tourists.
You can kind of see the tourist angle when you read the SpaceX website, which describes Dragon's enjoyable ride.
Full windows for Earth views, and, I kid you not, an escape system that feels like a ride at Disneyland, but this is space, not Space Mountain, and NASA wants to make sure that these two companies have gear that actually works.
First, they need to conduct un-crewed test flights Boeing calls this an orbital flight test.
While spaceX has dubbed it demo one.
From there they'll test their systems for safely aborting a launch before finally running full test flights with crew onboard.
If all goes to plan they'll be then certified to start missions to the ISS.
Not everything has gone good so far.
Boeing crew member Eric Boe had to be replaced due to medical reasons and spaceX has faced a number of launch delays.
but while Boeing's bo had to go, and the crew dragon has been flagging, things are still on track for this year.
SpaceX is planning an uncrewed test flight for February, with Boeing slated for March.
After crewed test flights in June, NASA hopes to have its first operational mission in August, fingers firmly crossed.
The hope is that by the end of 2019, NASA will be transporting astronauts just as Eisenhower intended, in American made Yankee tanks fresh out of Disneyland.
I suppose that's why they build them with windows, so the astronauts can see, it truly is a small world after all.
All right, that's it for this week's edition of Watch This Space.
We'll be back in two weeks, but in the meantime, if you've enjoyed our broadcast Please remember to hit the like button on your remote, and subscribe to get more updates as they happen.
I'm Claire Riley for CNET, good night and Godspeed.