Science & Technology

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg lays out his vision for space airplanes and aerospace traffic system

A decade from now, Boeing will nonetheless be primarily referred to as an airplane firm, the corporate’s CEO says. However a number of the issues we’ll name airplanes is likely to be what we’d name rocket ships as we speak. And no matter you name them, Boeing will make them.

That’s the vision laid out as we speak on the GeekWire Summit by Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing’s CEO, president and chairman. Quite than seeing a pointy division between the world of atmospheric flight and the world of rocket launches, Muilenburg sees a continuum that stretches from personal-sized air taxis to conventional plane to hypersonic transports to a complete household of Boeing-built industrial spacecraft.

“Inside a decade, you’re going to see low-Earth-orbit space journey grow to be way more commonplace,” he informed me. “Not solely going to the Worldwide Space Station, as we are going to as we speak, but in addition different locations in space. Space tourism, space factories … that entire ecosystem is evolving, and we’ll be deeply concerned within the transportation system that can allow entry.”

Boeing’s first piece of that space transportation system is the CST-100 Starliner capsule, which is designed to start out carrying astronauts to and from the space station subsequent 12 months. “You may consider that as our first automobile in what in the long run will probably be a portfolio of economic space automobiles to associate with our industrial airplanes,” Muilenburg mentioned.

That vision is being fleshed out in a $1 million study that Boeing is getting ready to send to NASA in December. Boeing can also be working with NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration and different aerospace trade representatives on new approaches to air traffic management, a few of which take advantage of artificial intelligence.

“Sooner or later, you will have industrial airplanes flying as you will have as we speak, and in dense city environments, you may need these small mobility automobiles,” Muilenburg mentioned. “You may need hypersonic automobiles touring at larger pace by means of the identical airspace. After which to get space automobiles into orbit, you want launch corridors for these space automobiles. So, that every one wants an built-in traffic system. That’s a part of what we’re engaged on with NASA and the FAA.”

New applied sciences and enterprise fashions are main some transportation corporations to rebrand themselves. For instance, Ford prefers to see itself as a “mobility company” relatively than an vehicle firm. However Muilenburg has a special perspective on how folks will see Boeing’s model 10 years from now.

“They’ll nonetheless see us as an airplane firm. Airplanes are in our blood,” he mentioned. “I simply suppose the definition of ‘airplanes’ will broaden over time. We’ve been within the airplane enterprise now for a century, and we’ve simply began our second century. Over this subsequent century, airplanes will evolve to incorporate these city mobility options, hypersonic airplanes, space planes. So we’ll nonetheless be an airplane firm, however the definition of airplanes will probably be a lot larger.”

Different tidbits from Muilenburg’s speak:

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