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

GeekWire’s Alan Boyle listens to Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg during a fireside chat at the GeekWire Summit in Seattle. (Photo by Dan DeLong for GeekWire)

A decade from now, Boeing will still be primarily known as an airplane company, the company’s CEO says. But some of the things we’ll call airplanes might be what we’d call rocket ships today. And whatever you call them, Boeing will make them.

That’s the vision laid out today at the GeekWire Summit by Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing’s CEO, president and chairman. Rather than seeing a sharp 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 traditional aircraft to hypersonic transports to a whole family of Boeing-built commercial spacecraft.

“Within a decade, you’re going to see low-Earth-orbit space travel become much more commonplace,” he told me. “Not only going to the International Space Station, as we will today, but also other destinations in space. Space tourism, space factories … that whole ecosystem is evolving, and we’ll be deeply involved in the transportation system that will enable access.”

Boeing’s first piece of that space transportation system is the CST-100 Starliner capsule, which is designed to start carrying astronauts to and from the space station next year. “You can think of that as our first vehicle in what in the longer term will be a portfolio of commercial space vehicles to go along with our commercial airplanes,” Muilenburg said.

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

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