Every spaceship needs a good name.
With a nod to its Dreamliner airline, Boeing has announced its new human-rated cargo and crew vehicle. Meet the Starliner—a name that summons up roller skating space musicals, egg-shaped chairs, and Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters.
Chris Ferguson, the commander of the last Space Shuttle flight and currently deputy manager of operations for Boeing’s commercial crew program, made the announcement before the project group, NASA representatives, and the press.
Prior to Friday’s announcement, the spaceship line had a name no less sexy than the bulk of designations we’ve given to stars: CST-100. This name, such as it was, combined the abbreviation for Crew Space Transportation with a reference to the distance above the earth’s surface that space properly begins (100 kilometers), as well as a nod to Boeing’s upcoming 100th anniversary.
Boeing will send up the first Starliner in 2017, to deliver personnel to the International Space Station. NASA chief administrator Charles Bolden, Jr. reminded the crowd that Boeing’s Starliner, as well as SpaceX’s Dragon, will be servicing the upcoming Mars mission as well, by ferrying crew and cargo to orbit and back down planetside.
Boeing’s contract to develop transportation solutions and deliver crew and cargo to space for NASA is $4.2 billion, quite a bit higher than SpaceX’s contract of $2.6 billion.