$570 million, teams of scientists and designers and aircraft manufacturers Boeing have unveiled the first commercial spaceship to replace the defunct Space Shuttle – but there’s only one problem.
The designers couldn’t find a way to squeeze a loo on board and are busy running through alternatives that could see astronauts ferried to the international space station wearing nappies.
The space ship is one of three prototypes under construction by three firms tendering for the contract to fly astronauts to their orbiting space station.
The seven-seat space vehicle looks remarkably like the first Gemini ‘gumdrop’ capsules of the 1960s.
The Boeing CST-100 is currently undergoing tests with two astronauts Randy Bresnik and Serena Aunon suited up in the protective clothing worn by pilots and passengers of the last space shuttle.
Astronauts may wear nappies
The duo are undergoing mock space flights to test equipment and design flaws prior to moving to more rigorous tests.
“It’s true we do not have a waste containment system on board,” said Boeing engineer Tony Castilleja. “We’re exploring some options, from nappies to mechanical devices. We just have to work out the weight and size restrictions and go for the best one.”
The space shuttle had enough room for a space toilet, but space is at a premium in this capsule.
Although going to the loo while on board is not an option, the mock-up capsule has two rows of crew seating and cargo space.
The seating can be reconfigured to give up places for crew in favour of more cargo, including a freezer for science experiments.
The cabin interior borrows heavily from Boeing jets – even the paint job is a calming blue from passenger plans.
The hi-tech gadgetry for flight and manoeuvring is mainly touch-screen with flick switches and hand controls.
Forward and side windows are built into the capsule to help the pilots with all-round observation.
Boeing’s two rivals in the commercial space race are SpaceX and the Sierra Nevada Corporation.
NASA’s brief is for each company to design and build a mock-up to transport astronauts from Earth to low orbit.
The prize is millions of dollars for carrying cargo and experiments to space from companies, scientific institutions and universities.
Not only is the CST-100 design a throwback to the 1960s, but the capsule is destined to be launched atop an Atlas rocket and will return to Earth by parachute to a designated drop zone.