Commercial Crew Program
SpaceX isn't the only company attempting to revolutionize the way we send astronauts to space.
Boeing, the largest aerospace company in the world, is looking to send up its own take on a passenger spacecraft, which it calls the CST-100 Starliner, to the International Space Station. Boeing is planning to launch the capsule — uncrewed for now, as a test flight — on an Atlas 5 rocket as early as April, according to NASA.
Boeing's commercial spacecraft shares similarities with SpaceX's Crew Dragon: it can seat a crew of seven, be operated from a central control panel, dock autonomously with the ISS, and can also be reused multiple times.
Boeing's Starliner is the result of a $4.2 billion contract signed with NASA in 2014 under the Commercial Crew Program. SpaceX signed a very similar contract for its Crew Dragon mission at the same time, although it paid SpaceX just $2.4 billion.
Race to the ISS
SpaceX successfully launched its passenger spacecraft to the ISS on Saturday, becoming the first ever private American spacecraft to do so.
Boeing has tests to complete before it takes off.
"There still are many critical steps to complete before launch and while we eagerly are anticipating these launches, we will step through our test flight preparations and readiness reviews," Kathy Lueders, Commercial Crew Program manager at NASA said in an official update.
SpaceX is planning a crewed test flight in July of this year. Boeing wants to do the same only a month later — and its first pilots are already on stand-by.
Editor's note: This story has been edited to remove the mistaken claim that this was the first time an astronaut has launched from American soil since 2011; in reality, the only traveler on SpaceX's ISS mission was a dummy.
READ MORE: Crew Dragon and Starliner: A Look at the Upcoming Astronaut Taxis [Space.com]
More on Starliner: NASA Announces The First Commercial Astronauts to Pilot The Next Generation of Spacecraft