Boeing is getting into the space race with a next-gen capsule which provides a sneak peek into the future of commercial space travel.
American astronauts are set to take the reins of Boeing's CST-100 Crew Space Transportation vehicle in early 2017, beginning with simple test flights but eventually providing ferry rides to the International Space Station.
But Boeing and NASA hope the programme will unlock a commercial space travel market where passengers could, quite literally, travel to destinations out of this world.
If that's the case, those space-borne frequent flyers will enjoy a CST-100 outfitted for seven people with a slick 'first class' look.
With a curvaceous style and LED lighting similar to Boeing’s Sky Interior (found on the latest Boeing 737-800 jets flown by Qantas and Virgin Australia), there's a surprisingly large number of windows – something traditionally preferred by astronauts, but not the engineers.
The CST-100 has seating for six passengers facing the front of the capsule.
The pilot gets his or her own seat in a control nook nestled at the front of the capsule.
Boeing says the commercial CST-100 will even sport inflight WiFi (cue the inevitable Tweets from outer space) plus storage pods to stow your carry-on kit.
That's all some years away, of course. Today, the Boeing prototype (pictured below) is more sparsely functional.
Boeing also has plans to make the spacecraft available for private travel, a stark contrast to space missions of yesteryear.
“We are moving into a truly commercial space market and we have to consider our potential customers – beyond NASA – and what they need in a future commercial spacecraft interior," says Chris Ferguson, a director for Boeing’s Commercial Crew Program.
Virgin Galactic plans to begin commercial spaceflights this August, although Richard Branson’s brainchild is mostly for joyriders to experience just four minutes of weightlessness for around US$250,000.
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