Military Embedded Systems

Boeing gets second crew mission to International Space Station


December 29, 2015

John McHale

Editorial Director

Military Embedded Systems

HOUSTON. NASA officials ordered its second post-certification mission from Boeing Space Exploration as part of an effort to establish regular crew missions to launch from the United States to the International Space Station (ISS).

This is the third in a series of what will be four guaranteed orders NASA will make under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts. Boeing and SpaceX received their initial orders in May and November, respectively, and have already started planning for, building, and procuring the required hardware and assets to perform their first missions for the agency. NASA officials will determine at a later time which company will get to fly the first mission to the station.

"Once certified by NASA, the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon each will be capable of two crew launches to the station per year," says Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. "Placing orders for those missions now really sets us up for a sustainable future aboard the International Space Station."

Boeing met the necessary criteria to win its second mission with the completion of interim developmental milestones and internal design reviews for its Starliner spacecraft, United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, and its associated ground system.

Boeing’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida is the hub for seeing the buildup of the Starliner structural test article, and not far away, the main column of the crew access tower is in place at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41. Flight trainers are nearing completion in the Boeing facility in St. Louis and rocket parts are being developed in Huntsville, Alabama.

Commercial crew missions to the space station are planned to restore America’s human spaceflight capabilities and increase the amount of time dedicated to scientific research off the Earth, for the Earth, and beyond. A standard commercial crew mission to the station will take as many as four NASA or NASA-sponsored crew members and about 220 pounds of pressurized cargo. The spacecraft will then remain at the station for as long as 210 days, available as an emergency lifeboat during that time.

Via the Boeing and SpaceX commercial crew vehicles, NASA will soon add a seventh crew member to ISS missions, which should increase the amount of crew time to conduct research, says Kirk Shireman, manager for the ISS Program.

Orders under the CCtCap contracts are made two to three years before actual mission dates so as to provide time for each company to manufacture and assemble the launch vehicle and spacecraft. Each company also must then complete a certification process before NASA officials will give the final approval for flight. Each provider’s contract has a minimum of two and a maximum potential of six missions.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manages the CCtCap contracts and is working with each company to make sure commercial transportation system designs and post-certification missions will meet NASA’s safety requirements. Activities that follow the award of missions consist of a series of mission-related reviews and approvals leading to launch. The program also will be involved in all operational phases of missions to ensure crew safety.

For more information about NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, visit: To stay up-to-date on commercial crew progress, follow the program’s blog at:

For further reading on NASA's human space flight efforts, read:

Astronauts wanted: NASA looks for more space explorers

Orion spacecraft's avionics designed for reliability in deep space


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