Boeing Outlines Vision for Future of Aerospace
Matthew Greenwood posted on November 03, 2018 |
Spaceships, rockets and commercial airliners will all be sharing the skies within a decade, predicts...
Boeing Corporate Offices in Chicago. (Image courtesy of Boeing.)
Boeing Corporate Offices in Chicago. (Image courtesy of Boeing.)
A decade from now, the aerospace industry will have been transformed, said Dennis Muilenberg, CEO, president and chairman of Boeing. He foresees rockets, low-Earth-orbit spacecraft and more conventional passenger jets in the sky—and whatever they are, Boeing will be making them.

Speaking at the GeekWire Summit, Muilenberg said that air and space travel won’t have a sharp division between them—rather, the two will be integrated into a transportation landscape that includes personal air taxis, conventional aircraft, hypersonic transports and commercial spacecraft.

“Within a decade, you’re going to see low-Earth-orbit space travel become much more commonplace,” he told GeekWire. “Space tourism, space factories … that whole ecosystem is evolving, and we’ll be deeply involved in the transportation system that will enable access.”

Boeing’s involvement in that integrated future is centered around the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, which the company intends to start carrying astronauts as early as next year. “You can think of that as our first vehicle in what in the longer term will be a portfolio of commercial space vehicles to go along with our commercial airplanes,” Muilenburg said.

If that’s true, Boeing’s foray into spacecraft has had a rocky start. The Starliner failed a recent test of its launch abort system. And Boeing recently had to push back its target launch date for the Starliner’s next major test flight—from August to late this year or early next year. With the recent Soyuz rocket mishap, there will be more pressure on Boeing and other spacecraft developers like SpaceX to produce functional—and safe—vehicles to service the ISS.

If the skies are only going to get busier, then the world will need a more sophisticated air traffic management system. Boeing is already working with NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration and other industry players to meet that need with NextGen, the FAA’s long-term, $35 billion overhaul of America’s aging air traffic control system which is slated to be ready by 2030.

If Boeing is to be a major player in space flight, it needs to address problems in its current aircraft production. The company has had to scramble to meet the demand for its 737s, many of which were sitting on the tarmac without engines this summer. This hasn’t hurt the company’s financial position, though, as evidenced from its strong Q2 report.

While Boeing dominates the aerospace industry it faces hungry competitors like Airbus in the air and SpaceX in orbit. But that doesn’t stop Muilenberg from dreaming big for the planemaker—he boasts repeatedly that the first people to land on Mars will do so on a Boeing-built rocket.

Read more about the growth of the aerospace industry at Aerospace Sector Posts Strong Q2 Results Amid Concerns Over Trade War.

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