SpaceX had Ripley. Now Boeing has Rosie.
As Boeing moved its Starliner crew capsule to its pad Thursday for a launch next month, the company revealed the name of the test dummy on board, CGTN.com reported.
Rosie the Astronaut is named after World War II’s Rosie the Riveter.
The dummy has hundreds of sensors for the first CST-100 Starliner test flight to the International Space Station, and it’s wearing Rosie the Riveter’s trademark red polka-dot headscarf, along with a Boeing blue spacesuit.
Boeing said it chose the name given its long history of hiring women, especially during World War II to keep up bomber production.
“She’s flying for everyone on our team who took on the challenge of human spaceflight and said, ‘We can do it,’ ” Leanne Caret, president of Boeing’s defense, space and security unit, said in a statement.
SpaceX turned to the “Alien” movies in naming its test dummy, Ripley, launched aboard a crew Dragon capsule in March.
Flights with NASA astronauts should follow next year for both private companies. The first Starliner crew will include a woman, NASA’s Nicole Mann. She and her two crewmates were present for Thursday’s capsule move.
According to The Verge, the capsule will now be mated on top of the rocket that will take it to space — an Atlas V manufactured by the United Launch Alliance.
On December 17th, the rocket and capsule are slated to take off from Cape Canaveral, Florida — without any crew members on board — and then dock with the International Space Station. If successful, this demonstration mission could pave the way for NASA astronauts to fly on the Starliner sometime next year.
Since the end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011, NASA astronauts have had to ride on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft to get to the International Space Station, a partnership that costs NASA US$85 million per seat.
Boeing is one of two providers for the Commercial Crew program, along with rival SpaceX, which has been developing its own passenger spacecraft called the Crew Dragon.
The two have been in an unspoken competition with one another to fly humans first, though Boeing has seemed to lag behind SpaceX in development.
SpaceX already launched its Crew Dragon once in March, on an uncrewed flight test to the International Space Station. The flight demonstrated the Crew Dragon’s capability to dock with the ISS and then return home safely.
After that flight, however, the same Crew Dragon that flew to the ISS suffered a major failure when it exploded during engine testing on the ground. The setback caused a significant delay to SpaceX’s development schedule, and now it’s unclear which company will be the first to fly people.
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine recently claimed that if testing goes well, SpaceX could fly people as early as the first quarter of 2020. However, no target dates have been set yet.
Meanwhile, Boeing’s approaching big milestone comes just a week after a damning report was released by NASA’s Office of Inspector General, claiming that rides on Boeing’s Starliner will incredibly expensive, The Verge reported.
The report argued that one seat on Starliner will cost US$90 million — more than a seat on the Soyuz and much more than the US$55 million a seat on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon will cost.
The audit also revealed that Boeing had received an extra US$287 million to the company’s supposedly fixed-price contract to prevent delays to the Commercial Crew program, US$187 million of which the inspector general considered unnecessary. The report even hinted that Boeing was threatening to leave the Commercial Crew program if it didn’t receive more money.
Additionally, the report found that SpaceX was not given the opportunity to receive additional funding to its contract.