New Spaceship Could Fly People to Private Space Stations

Aerospace heavyweight Boeing is advancing plans for its new capsule-based spaceship, designed to ferry people to and from the International Space Station and future private space stations. The capsule design is part of an effort to fill the void that will be left by the 2011 retirement of NASA's space shuttle fleet.

The new Crew Space Transportation-100 spacecraft is part of the company's $18 million award from NASA under the Commercial Crew Development Space Act Agreement. The award aims to advance the concepts and technology required to build a commercial crew space transportation system.

Boeing's capsule design is one of several efforts by different U.S. companies to develop the first private spaceship capable of flying humans to space. The push fits in with President Barack Obama's new plan for NASA, which calls for commercial spacecraft to take over the role vacated by the space shuttles of transporting astronauts to the space station.Boeing's new spaceship design will look similar to NASA's cone-shaped Apollo and Orion spacecraft.

The Apollo capsules were built to fly astronauts from Earth to the moon in the late 1960s and 1970s. The larger Orion vehicles were part of NASA's Constellation program to return astronauts to the moon, which was cancelled by President Obama as part of his new proposal. The Obama administration did resurrect Orion, though, to serve as a space station lifeboat.