Defining the Future of Flight: 1997 -- present

New Frontiers

The wide-ranging Boeing enterprise continued to explore new programs, improve existing programs and expand service to customers around the world and beyond it.

engineer examining large round heat shield
Developmental heat shield for NASA's Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle

On the frontiers of space, a Boeing-led team began 2004 with an extended contract from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to study development of a deep space exploration vehicle for the proposed Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter mission, scheduled to launch after 2010.

In addition, Boeing designed and developed a thermal protection system for NASA's Orion crew exploration vehicle, the next-generation spacecraft that will carry astronauts to the International Space Station and the moon. Boeing shipped the developmental heat shield to NASA Nov. 13, 2007, as part of NASA's Constellation program to return humans to the moon and send them on to Mars.

In the forefront of commercial air travel, the Boeing 777-300ER (Extended Range), made its first flight Feb. 24, 2003. New planes introduced in 2005 included the 777-200LR Worldliner, the 777 Freighter and the new higher-capacity, longer-range 737-900ER jetliner. The same year, Boeing delivered the first 747-400 passenger airplane to be converted to a freighter and launched the Boeing 747-8 family of jets. In addition, Boeing Business Jets offered a larger version BBJ based on the Next-Generation 737-900ER.

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777-200LR Worldliner sets nonstop distance world record

More new products became part of The Boeing Company portfolio in May 2004, when the company purchased Frontier Systems Inc., developer of the A-160 Hummingbird and Maverick unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). Boeing capabilities in unmanned systems already included the Joint Unmanned Combat Air System X-45, ScanEagle and other concepts under development.

A new world record for distance traveled nonstop by a commercial airplane was set Nov. 10, 2005, when the 777-200LR Worldliner flew 11,664 nautical miles in 22 hours and 42 minutes from Hong Kong to London. The National Aeronautics Association later named the flight as one of the most memorable aviation records of 2005.

During 2005, Boeing sold 1,002 commercial jets, beating the previous record of 877, set in 1988. The company broke the record again during 2006, with 1,044 net orders, and ended 2007 with 1,413 net commercial airplane orders, smashing the Boeing record for total orders in a single year. This also marked an unprecedented third consecutive year of more than 1,000 orders.

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