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Boeing to establish center in Florida for new spaceship program

October 31, 2011 |  1:29 pm


Aerospace giant Boeing Co. announced plans to establish a headquarters for its new spaceship program at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

The Chicago company is in the process of developing a seven-person spaceship, dubbed the Crew Space Transportation-100, for the job of ferrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station now that the space shuttle program is over.

Boeing will consolidate the program’s engineering and manufacturing operations, which are now spread across the country in space-centric cities like Huntington Beach, Houston and Huntsville, Ala. Boeing’s decision is expected to bring back high-paying aerospace jobs to the nation’s “space coast,” near Cape Canaveral, which lost thousands of jobs when the shuttle program was retired this year.

"We selected Florida due to the cost benefits achieved with a consolidated operation, the skilled local workforce and proximity to our NASA customer,” John Mulholland, Boeing’s program manager of commercial programs, said in a statement.

Boeing estimated that the workforce at Kennedy Space Center will ramp up to 550 local jobs by December 2015. Although that's a relatively small number compared with the tens of thousands employed during the shuttle program, the announcement was heralded by state officials.

"We are extremely pleased that Boeing will locate its commercial crew headquarters here in Florida," said Frank DiBello, president of Space Florida, the state’s aerospace economic development agency. "This positions our state well for future growth and a leadership role in NASA's next-generation human space exploration initiatives. It is also a key factor in ensuring Florida's space-related economy continues to thrive after shuttle retirement."

In the coming years, NASA plans to rely on private businesses for low–orbit space missions such as carrying cargo to the space station. The space agency hopes that one day the companies will be able to take astronauts into space as well.

Modern-day industrialists have pounced on this opportunity, developing rockets and space ships to assume the responsibilities.

Boeing's contender to fill the role is an Apollo-like space capsule. Locally, engineers in Huntington Beach are developing the capsule's pressure vessel, base heat shield and autonomous docking systems.


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-- W.J. Hennigan

Image: An artist's rendering of Boeing's Crew Space Transportation-100. Composed of a crew module and a service module, the capsule could carry a crew of seven and would be used to support the International Space Station. Credit: Boeing