Boeing says completed key design review for space taxi

Thu Aug 21, 2014 1:00pm EDT
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By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON Aug 21 (Reuters) - Boeing Co has completed a key review of its design for a new commercial venture to fly astronauts to the International Space Station, making it the only one of four rival bidders to finish the NASA work on time, company officials said on Thursday.

Boeing is competing with Space Exploration Technologies Corp, or SpaceX, and privately held Sierra Nevada Corp, to develop and build U.S. commercial space taxis to transport astronauts, rather than relying on Russia to ferry them to the station.

The multibillion-dollar program has taken on new urgency in recent months, given escalating tensions with Russia over its annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine.

NASA spokeswoman Stephanie Martin said the U.S. space agency planned to choose one or more of the competitors to continue working on the program in late August or early September.

Martin confirmed that Boeing had completed a critical design review of its offering in the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) program. She said NASA was reviewing the data to determine if Boeing met its required "success criteria" for the review.

SpaceX and Sierra Nevada have sought and won extensions to finish their design reviews by May 2015. Blue Origin, a privately funded company set up by founder Jeff Bezos is also vying for the work.

John Mulholland, vice president and program manager for Boeing's commercial space exploration programs, said the company faced some difficult challenges as it developed its design, but got "excellent" feedback from NASA during the review last month.

"From a technical standpoint, the review went very well," he said. "To the best of my knowledge we're the only CCiCAP competitor that actually was able to complete all of the milestones in the period of performance," he said.   Continued...