Beyond SpaceX: Five companies seeking to change space travel
During the past 10 years, Presidents George W. Bush and Obama have directed NASA to turn the job of transporting cargo and crew to the space station over to the private sector. As that process gathers pace, here is a list of the key players.
Boeing has been making things that fly – and more recently rocket into space – since 1917. So far, NASA has spent $132 million on the aerospace giant's effort to design a crew capsule that could ferry up to seven people to and from the space station or other destinations in low-Earth orbit.
Much like the Apollo capsule, Boeing's CST-100 crew capsule is designed to land in water or on land – using airbags for flotation or to cushion the impact of a terrestrial touchdown. The craft is undergoing tests – most recently drop tests of its parachute system over a dry lake bed near Alamo, Nev., north of Las Vegas.
Ultimately the capsule would sit atop an Atlas V rocket – an updated version of the workhorse used for the last four Mercury missions in the early 1960s. Designers also envision it mating with other current or future expendable rockets.