Captain Picard’s ride seemed to have landed in Las Vegas today, as Boeing unveiled a mock-up of the new commercial interior of its Crew Space Transportation (CST-100). Under development as part of a NASA program to put a privately-owned and operated manned spacecraft to ferry American crews and cargo to the International Space Station (ISS), the new interior reflects Boeing’s design strategy and it ambitions beyond NASA.
Like a shuttle craft out of Star Trek, the new CST-100 interior is very different from interiors that followers of manned spaceflight are used to. There’s no complicated assemblage of switches, readouts, or the general aviation look – instead, it's more like something out of science fiction, with a minimalist design.
The passenger seats are lightweight plastic affairs and the pilot’s seat seems to float above them. What it lacks in lockers and valves and rivets it makes up for with a surprising number of portholes, some of which are very large for a space capsule. Then there are a pair of conical objects on the aft bulkhead with slotted diaphragms that appear to be for storage.
The most interesting touch is the blue indirect lighting scheme. It’s tempting to call it mood lighting, which wouldn’t be that far off because that’s exactly what it is.
"Boeing's teams have been designing award-winning and innovative interiors for our airplanes since the dawn of commercial aviation," says Rachelle Ornan, regional director of Sales and Marketing for Boeing Commercial Airplanes. "Designing the next-generation interior for commercial space is a natural progression. A familiar daytime blue sky scene helps passengers maintain their connection with Earth."
The CST-100 is one of several spacecraft being developed by private companies for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program as a replacement for the space shuttle, for ferrying cargo and crews to the ISS. Featuring a weldless design and a pressure vessel capable of flying up to 10 missions before needing to be replaced, the CST-100 is intended to carry up to seven passengers or a mix of passengers and cargo to the space station.
Boeing says that part of the reasoning behind the new interior is that the company is looking beyond servicing the space station with CST-100, with an eye on other commercial customers, so this interior design is aimed more at paying passengers rather than NASA astronauts.
"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, former Space Shuttle Atlantis commander and current Boeing director of Crew and Mission Operations for the Commercial Crew Program.
An example of this thinking is that Boeing partner Bigelow Aerospace was also at the unveiling, exhibiting a full-scale model of its BA 330 commercial space module.