Boeing CST-100 Starliner

The Boeing CST-100 Starliner (Crew Space Transportation) crew capsule is a spacecraft under construction by Boeing as its participation in NASA's Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program. Its primary purpose is to transport crew to the International Space Station (ISS)[5] and to private space stations such as the proposed Bigelow Aerospace Commercial Space Station.[6]

Boeing CST-100 Starliner
Capsule to be used in the Boeing Crewed Flight Test, undergoing testing in April 2019
Country of originUnited States
ApplicationsCrew Transfer Vehicle
Spacecraft typeCrewed capsule
Design life
  • 60 hours (free flight)[1]
  • 210 days (docked)[1][2]
Launch mass13,000 kg (29,000 lb)
Crew capacity7
  • Diameter (CM): 4.56 m (15.0 ft)[3]
  • Length (CM+SM): 5.03 m (16.5 ft)[3]
Volume11 m3 (390 cu ft)[4]
RegimeLow Earth
StatusIn development
Maiden launchDecember 20, 2019 6:36 am EST (uncrewed, scheduled)

Starliner is similar in concept to the Orion spacecraft being built for NASA by Lockheed Martin.[7] The capsule has a diameter of 4.56 meters (15.0 ft),[3] which is slightly larger than the Apollo command module and smaller than the Orion capsule.[8] The Starliner is to support larger crews of up to seven people and is being designed to be able to remain on-orbit for up to seven months with reusability of up to ten missions.[9] It is designed to be compatible with four launch vehicles: Atlas V, Delta IV, Falcon 9, and Vulcan,[10] and the maiden flight will be launched with the Atlas V N22,[11] from SLC-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

In the first phase of its CCDev program NASA awarded Boeing US$18 million in 2010 for preliminary development of the spacecraft.[12] In the second phase Boeing was awarded a $93 million contract in 2011 for further spacecraft development.[13] On August 3, 2012, NASA announced the award of $460 million to Boeing to continue work on the CST-100 under the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) Program.[14] On September 16, 2014, NASA selected the CST-100, along with SpaceX's Dragon V2, for the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) program, with an award of $4.2 billion.[15] As of April 2019, the spacecraft was expected to conduct an automated test mission to the ISS in August 2019.[16] On July 30 2019, NASA had no specific dates for Commercial Crew launches, stating that this was under review pending a leadership change.[17]


The design draws upon Boeing's experience with NASA's Apollo, Space Shuttle and ISS programs as well as the Orbital Express project sponsored by the Department of Defense.[8] The CST-100 has no Orion heritage, but it is sometimes confused with the earlier and similar Orion-derived Orion Lite proposal that Bigelow Aerospace was reportedly working on with technical assistance from Lockheed Martin.[18] It will use the NASA Docking System for docking[19][20][21] and use the Boeing Lightweight Ablator for its heatshield.[22] The Starliner's solar cells will provide more than 2,900 watts of electricity, will be placed on top of the micro-meteoroid debris shield located at the bottom of the spacecraft's service module.[23]

It is designed to be compatible with multiple launch vehicles, including the Atlas V, Delta IV, and Falcon 9, as well as the planned Vulcan.[10][24] Unlike earlier U.S. space capsules, the CST-100 will make airbag-cushioned landings on the ground rather than into water. Five landing areas are planned in the Western United States, which will give the CST-100 about 450 landing opportunities every year.[25]

The CST-100 includes one space tourist seat, and the Boeing contract with NASA allows Boeing to price and sell passage to low Earth orbit on that seat.[26]


The CST-100 name was first used when the capsule was revealed to the public by Bigelow Aerospace CEO Robert Bigelow in June 2010.[27] The letters CST stand for Crew Space Transportation.[28] Although it has been reported that the number 100 in the name stands for 100 km, the height of the Kármán line which is one of several definitions of the boundary of space,[29][30] the naming was in fact an arbitrary designation created by the corporate office. The Rocketdyne RS-88 (Bantam) engine will be used for its launch escape system.[31]

Receiving the full fixed-price payments for the CCDev Phase 1 Space Act Agreement required a set of specific milestones to be met during 2010:[32]

  • Trade study and down-select between pusher-type and tractor-style launch escape system
  • System definition review
  • Abort System Hardware Demonstration Test
  • Base Heat Shield Fabrication Demonstration
  • Avionics Systems Integration Facility demonstration
  • CM Pressure Shell Fabrication Demonstration
  • Landing System Demonstration (drop test and water uprighting test)
  • Life Support Air Revitalization demonstration
  • Autonomous Rendezvous and Docking (AR&D) hardware/software demonstration
  • Crew Module Mockup demonstration

In July 2010, Boeing stated that the capsule could be operational in 2015 with sufficient near-term approvals and funding, but also indicated they would proceed with development of the CST-100 only if NASA implemented the commercial crew transport initiative that was announced by the Obama administration in its FY11 budget request. Boeing executive Roger Krone stated that NASA investment would allow Boeing to close the business case, while this would be very difficult without NASA. In addition a second destination besides the ISS would be needed to close the business case and Krone said that cooperation with Bigelow was crucial for this.[8]

Boeing was awarded a $92.3 million contract by NASA in April 2011 to continue to develop the CST-100 under CCDev phase 2.[33] On August 3, 2012, NASA announced the award of $460 million to Boeing to continue work on the CST-100 under the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) Program.[14]

On October 31, 2011, NASA announced that through a partnership with Space Florida, the Orbiter Processing Facility-3 at Kennedy Space Center would be leased to Boeing for manufacture and test of CST-100 spacecraft.[34]

On September 16, 2014, NASA chose Boeing (CST-100) and SpaceX (Dragon V2) as the two companies that will be funded to develop systems to transport U.S. government crews to and from the International Space Station. Boeing won a $4.2 billion contract to complete and certify CST-100 spacecraft by 2017, while SpaceX won a $2.6 billion contract to complete and certify their crewed Dragon spacecraft. The contracts include at least one crewed flight test with at least one NASA astronaut aboard. Once the Starliner achieves NASA certification, the contract requires Boeing to conduct at least two, and as many as six, crewed missions to the space station.[35] NASA's William H. Gerstenmaier considers the CST-100 proposal as stronger than the two others.[36]

Part of the agreement with NASA allows Boeing to sell seats for space tourists. Boeing proposed including one seat per flight for a space flight participant at a price that would be competitive with what Roscosmos charges tourists.[37]

On September 4, 2015, Boeing announced that the CST-100 would officially be called the CST-100 Starliner, a name that follows the conventions of the 787 Dreamliner produced by Boeing Commercial Airplanes.[38] In November 2015, NASA announced it had dropped Boeing from consideration in the multibillion-dollar Commercial Resupply Services second-phase competition to fly cargo to the International Space Station.[39]

In May 2016, Boeing delayed its first scheduled CST-100 launch from 2017 to early 2018.[40][41] Then in October 2016, Boeing delayed its program by six months, from early 2018 to late 2018, following supplier holdups and a production problem on the second CST-100. By 2016, they were hoping to fly NASA astronauts to the ISS by December 2018.[40][42]

In April 2018, NASA suggested the first planned two-person flight of the CST-100 Starliner, slated for November 2018, was now likely to occur in 2019 or 2020. If the delays are maintained it would be expected to carry one additional crew member and extra supplies. Instead of staying for two weeks as originally planned, NASA said the expanded crew could stay at the station for as long as six months as a normal rotational flight.[43]


Test of the CST-100 capsule at Delamar Dry Lake, Nevada, with airbags deployed in April 2012
Test firing of the RS-88 in December 2003

A variety of validation tests have been underway on test articles since 2011.

In September 2011, Boeing announced the completion of a set of ground drop tests to validate the design of the airbag cushioning system. The airbags are located underneath the heat shield of the CST-100, which is designed to be separated from the capsule while under parachute descent at about 5,000 feet (1,500 m) altitude. The airbags are deployed by filling with a mixture of compressed nitrogen and oxygen gas, not with the pyro-explosive mixture sometimes used in automotive airbags. The tests were carried out in the Mojave Desert of southeast California, at ground speeds between 10 and 30 miles per hour (16 and 48 km/h) in order to simulate crosswind conditions at the time of landing. Bigelow Aerospace built the mobile test rig and conducted the tests.[28]

In April 2012, Boeing dropped a mock-up of its CST-100 commercial crew capsule over the Nevada desert at the Delamar Dry Lake near Alamo, Nevada, successfully testing the craft's three main landing parachutes from 11,000 feet (3,400 m).[44]

In August 2013, Boeing announced that two NASA astronauts evaluated communications, ergonomics, and crew-interface aspects of the CST-100, showing how future astronauts will operate in the spacecraft as it transports them to the International Space Station and other low Earth orbit destinations.[45]

Boeing reported in May 2016 that its test schedule would slip by eight months in order to reduce the mass of the spacecraft and aerodynamics issues anticipated during launch and ascent on the Atlas V rocket.[46] The Orbital Flight Test is scheduled for spring 2019. The booster for this Orbital Flight Test, an Atlas V N22 rocket, is being assembled at ULA's facility at Decatur, Alabama.[47] The first crewed flight (Boe-CFT) is scheduled for summer 2019, depending on test results from Boe-OFT. It is planned to last 14 days and carry one NASA astronaut and one Boeing test pilot to the ISS.[48] On April 5, 2018, NASA announced that the first planned two-person flight, originally slated for November 2018, is now likely to occur in 2019 or 2020. If this delay occurs the mission could be expected to carry one additional crew member and supplies. NASA said the expanded crew could stay at the station for as long as six months as a normal rotational flight. This is due to the ending of the agreement for Russia to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station in late 2019.[49] NASA has named its first Commercial Crew astronaut cadre of four veteran astronauts to work with SpaceX and Boeing: Robert Behnken, Eric Boe, Sunita Williams, and Douglas Hurley.[50] In July 2018 Boeing announced the assignment of former NASA astronaut Chris Ferguson to the Boe-CFT mission.

In July 2018, a test anomaly was reported in which there was a hypergolic propellant leak due to several faulty abort system valves. Consequentially the first unpiloted orbital mission was delayed to April 2019, and the first crew launch rescheduled to August 2019.[51][52] In March 2019, Reuters reported these test flights had been delayed by at least three months,[53] and in April Boeing announced that the unpiloted orbital mission is now scheduled for August 2019.[16]

In May 2019, all major hotfire, including simulations of low-altitude abort thruster testing, was completed using a full up service module test article that was "flight-like", meaning that the service module test rig used in the recent hotfire testing included fuel and helium tanks, reaction control system, orbital maneuvering and attitude control thrusters, launch abort engines, and all necessary fuel lines and avionics that the ones that will be used for crewed missions will have. This clears the way for the pad abort test and the subsequent uncrewed and crewed flights later.[54]

A pad abort test took place on 4 November 2019.[55] The capsule accelerated away from its pad, but then one of the three parachutes failed to deploy and the capsule landed with only two parachutes.[56][57] Landing was however deemed safe, and the test a success. Boeing did not expect the malfunction of one parachute to affect the Starliner development schedule.[58]

List of flights

List includes only completed or currently manifested missions. Launch dates are listed in UTC.

Mission Launch date


Crew Remarks Duration Outcome
Starliner pad abort test 4 November 2019, 14:15 UTC N/A Pad abort test, White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico 95 Seconds Success
Boe-OFT December 20, 2019 11:59 UTC N/A Uncrewed orbital test flight of the Starliner spacecraft 6-8 days (planned) Scheduled
Boe-CFT First half of 2020 Christopher Ferguson
Mike Fincke
Nicole Mann
First crewed test flight of the CST-100 Planned
USCV-2 Late 2020 Sunita Williams
Josh Cassada
Thomas Pesquet
First operational flight of the CST-100 Planned


On August 3, 2018, NASA announced the astronauts who will participate in the first Starliner flights.[59][60] Eric Boe was one of those initially selected, but was replaced by Michael Fincke in January 2019 due to "personal medical reasons".[61]

Space tourism

Space Adventures announced that it has acquired rights to sell tickets to the ISS on board the CST-100 once operational flights begin.[62]

Technology partners

See also


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