Boeing has unveiled details of its new commercial space taxi, a small vehicle called Starliner that will ferry passengers to and from the International Space Station starting in 2017. The spaceship, formally titled the CST-100, is currently under construction at a massive facility in Florida. In a press conference at Kennedy Space Center, NASA and Boeing announced the name “Starliner” and plans for 2017 test flights. Before Friday’s media event, only sketchy details were known about the commercial space vehicle.
The capsule-like spacecraft is part of NASA’s pivot toward outsourcing human space travel to the private sector; both Boeing and SpaceX have been awarded contracts to fly astronauts to the International Space Station. The number of flights Starliner will make to the ISS depends on NASA funding for fiscal year 2016, which will be announced later this fall.
Space travel is a booming field for large and small corporations alike; a staggering $1.9 billion has been invested in space travel startups since 2014. Due to a combination of declining costs, desire for low-cost satellites, and hope for riches from future asteroid mining, the field has been relatively booming after a lull in the 1990s and 2000s.