Boeing has a new name for its future commercial space taxi. Originally titled the CST-100, the company renamed the vehicle the Starliner.
The announcement was made this morning as NASA unveiled the new facility where the Starliner will be built. Boeing is taking up shop in one of the former Space Shuttle maintenance hangars at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Previously named Orbiter Processing Facility-3, the building used to house shuttles between missions so the vehicles could be repaired and made ready for the next launch. Now with the Space Shuttles grounded, Orbiter Processing Facility-3 will be called The Boeing Company’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility.
The hangar has been transformed into a factory-like center, with more than 150 pieces of hardware and more than 30,000 square feet of space. As an added touch, a huge mural of the Starliner has also been painted on the hangar’s outside wall. Boeing says the facility will help them transition from designing its crew vehicle to building the test version of the spacecraft. The first tests of the Starliner are slated for 2016.
Boeing and fellow private spaceflight company SpaceX have both been awarded contracts to develop commercial spacecraft for NASA. These vehicles will eventually ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station. It’s all part of the space agency’s Commercial Crew Program, an initiative to send American astronauts back into space on American-made vehicles. The first launches are scheduled for late 2017, however NASA administrator Charles Bolden says that budget cuts may delay those flights until 2018.