NASA Commercial Crew Comparison Boeing Starliner and SpaceX Dragon

One of them has already carried eight NASA crews and three private crews to the International Space Station. The other will launch on its first manned flight next week.

Both can carry up to seven astronauts, or a mix of crew and cargo. Both are designed to launch aboard rockets and chase the International Space Station, traveling at 17,500 miles per hour 200-250 miles above Earth — orbiting our planet every 90 minutes. One falls into the ocean. Other “soft lands” are in the desert.

The goal for both spacecraft was to find a way to provide transportation to the International Space Station for NASA astronauts, after the long space shuttle was retired. Both were selected for funding with government funds in 2014 under NASA's Commercial Crew Contract.

As Boeing prepares to launch its Starliner capsule on its first crewed mission as soon as 10:34 p.m. on May 6 from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, here's what you need to know about the Starliner and how it compares to SpaceX's Dragon.

Boeing Starliner plane to transport NASA astronauts

Boeing calls it Crew Space Transport (CST)-100 Starliner, or simply “Starliner”. Scheduled for launch no later than May 6, it will make history as the first spacecraft to carry humans from Space Launch Complex 41. The pad has been a launch site for historic missions starting with the Titan rockets in 1965 and including the deep-space New Horizons. The lander, the Voyager spacecraft, and even the Curiosity Mars rover.

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The site recently saw the addition of a crew access arm in preparation for the crew flight test of the Starliner vehicle, which will be launched with the help of an Atlas V rocket from ULA (a partnership between Boeing and Lockheed Martin). The Atlas V rocket has been launched from the site since 2002, but this will be the first time it carries astronauts into space.

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It was named Boeing Starliner Calypso for this task

As part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program, Boeing aims to have its Starliner vehicle regularly fly NASA astronauts after an upcoming successful crew flight test. Once certified by NASA, the Starliner will join SpaceX's Dragon, which has been transporting crews for NASA since 2020. Boeing currently states that NASA has purchased six additional crewed missions after upcoming flight testing.

According to Boeing, the Starliner crew capsule can be flown up to 10 times, with a six-month service period between missions.

The capsule flying Monday has been named Calypso By flight test astronaut Sunita “Sonny” Williams. As a nod to her love of the oceans and exploration, Williams stated in 2019 that she named the capsule Calypso After a ship Jacques Cousteau, who was an ocean explorer in the mid-20th century. That ship was remembered for its underwater observation room and helicopter and submarine equipment that aided in scientific expeditions. Traveling with Williams will be mission commander Butch Wilmore.

Boeing Starliner

name: Crew Space Transport (CST)-100 Starliner

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to rise: 16.5 feet (pod + server module)

Diameter: 15 feet

Crew size: Four (can hold up to seven)

rocket: Launches on ULA Atlas V

launcher: Space Launch Complex 41

Reuse of missiles: One flight (ULA tests reusability with Vulcan)

Destination: Earth orbit and the International Space Station

LandingLanding under three parachutes and airbags in the southwestern United States.

NASA Decade Award (2014): $4.8 billion

Boeing Starliner's first unmanned docking station

Boeing's Starliner spacecraft successfully docked for the first time with the International Space Station on May 20, 2022.

SpaceX Dragon

name:Dragon Crew Capsule

to rise: 16 feet

Diameter: 13 feet

Crew size: Four (can hold up to seven)

rocket: It is launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9

launcher: KSC 39A and Space Launch Complex 40.

Reuse of missiles: Multiple flights (Falcon 9 lands and flies again)

Destination: Earth orbit and the International Space Station

Landing: He lands in the ocean under four main chutes after using two deceptive parachutes

NASA Decade Award (2014): 3.1 billion dollars

SpaceX Dragon's first unmanned docking

The SpaceX Dragon successfully docked for the first time with the International Space Station on May 25, 2012.

Brooke Edwards is a satellite correspondent for Florida Today. Contact her at [email protected] or X: @brookeofstars.

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