The Boeing Co. today confirmed its selection of Atlas V rockets to launch a series of test flights of a commercial astronaut capsule now in development, as reported earlier by FLORIDA TODAY.
The test flights are planned from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, which Atlas owner United Launch Alliance will modify so crews can enter and escape a vehicle on the pad.
John Elbon, manager of the Boeing team developing the CST-100 spacecraft, said the Atlas V's record of 26 successful launches was a key factor in its choice over ULA's Delta IV, SpaceX's Falcon 9 and the Liberty rocket proposed by ATK and Astrium.
"The strength of the ULA offering was the reliability and dependability, the demonstrated performance over many missions of the Atlas system, and that was an important consideration as we went through the selection process," Elbon said.
Elbon said the process weighed technical considerations, management teams, past performance and cost. No cost information was disclosed.
Boeing owns a 50 percent stake in ULA. Elbon said the Federal Trade Commission reviewed the deal before it was announced to ensure it wasn't biased in ULA's favor.
The three test flights are planned in 2015, depending on the amount of funding Congress approves under a NASA program aiming to develop commercial crew taxis to transport astronauts to the International Space Station by late 2016.
The first two test flights would not carry people. For the third, Boeing pilots would fly the spacecraft to orbit and rendezvous with the space station.
The planned Atlas V configuration for the flights would be known as a "412," utilizing a single strap-on solid rocket booster and a two-engine Centaur upper stage.