The Boeing Company’s Space Exploration division has submitted a bare bones version of its CST-100 commercial crew vehicle in a contract for NASA’s space station cargo mission denoted Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-2). The contract is currently undergoing its second round of bidding in seeking an unmanned, reusable (up to a projected 10 times) vehicle for carrying supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). The cargo version is derived from Boeing’s crewed CST-100 which recently won a contract along with SpaceX for manned missions to the ISS – the Commercial Crew Program. By providing the same capsule for both CRS-2 and Commercial Crew missions, Boeing hopes to drive down costs with economies of scale. The Commercial Crew Program anticipates two flights a year once the CST-100 is operational.
The primary difference between the manned and unmanned variants of the CST-100 is the inside configuration. The cargo version will contain a cargo pallet capable of holding 5,500 pounds of supplies. Since not transporting life, the unmanned CST-100 will have extra space by removing the original model’s seats, life support systems, four hypergolic launch abort systems, and twelve orbital maneuver and control engines. After delivering food, clothing, hardware, and other required materials, the reusable vehicle will return to earth and make a parachute- and airbag-facilitated landing on terrain.
The Commercial Resupply Services program was established in February of 2014 when NASA issued a Request for Information to initiate a follow up program for the first Commercial Resupply Services program, CRS-1. Proposals were due in July 2014 and a total of two contracts are expected to be awarded in June 2015.
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