Feature Story

Last shuttle commander virtually flies Boeing CST-100

Boeing's commercial space team performs engine testing on the CST-100.

Chris Ferguson, commander of the final space shuttle flight, virtually returned to space in the Boeing Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 simulator, when he recently performed manual piloting activities, including on-orbit attitude and translation maneuvers, docking and backing away from a virtual International Space Station, and a manual re-entry to Earth.

“We used our actual flight software, we’ve used model displays, and our real jet model to show that we have a vehicle that can stay under control, can dock with the international space station, and fly a re-entry, equipped with all the visuals that one could expect from a spacecraft,” said Ferguson.

The testing for NASA officials satisfied a CST-100 development milestone known as “Pilot in the Loop.” The program has already passed critical design reviews for its primary structures and propulsion systems. Remaining milestones include a critical design review of the simulator’s software and a spacecraft safety review.

To help make that software as lifelike as possible, members of the Crew & Mission team in Houston worked hand-in-hand with counterparts in Boeing’s Global Services & Support division in St. Louis. “We’ve continued to develop our training and our aircraft technology over the last 30-40 years, and so we’re able to put that technology into the new spacecraft,” said Schamp. “I think it could certainly be the most advanced thing we’ve ever done.”

The simulator will one day be used by astronauts to train for future missions. In the meantime, Boeing is working toward meeting the next milestone and winning the contract from NASA.

“This is the one opportunity we have to really show off, from a user’s perspective, just how real our vehicle’s becoming,” said Ferguson.

View the video above to see the CST-100's engine tests.