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Boeing To Build New Spacecraft In Old Shuttle Hangar

There's a new private spacecraft in development to fly astronauts to the International Space Station and its maker, Boeing, has decided to build it in Florida. Boeing is leasing an old shuttle hangar from the Kennedy Space Center to construct the Crew Space Transportation-100 vehicle, or the CST. The facility has to be refurbished and staff hired, and Boeing says if it continues to win government contracts for the vehicle, the CST-100 will make its first test flights by the end of 2015.

<p>Boeing released this artist's rendering of its planned CST-100 which can carry a crew of seven.</p>

Boeing released this artist's rendering of its planned CST-100 which can carry a crew of seven.

The idea is to supply private transportation into orbit, taking astronauts to the International Space Station. Boeing's craft is designed to ferry seven people aloft, or fewer people who trundle along more cargo. Currently, the only way American astronauts can reach the Station is by paying Russia for an expensive lift aboard a Soyuz rocket. As ABC reports it's "at a cost of $60 million a pop."

Boeing says besides the Station, its CST-100 craft could reach other destinations in Low Earth Orbit, including the proposed Bigelow Space Complex. Never heard of it? Financier Robert Bigelow says he's ready to start building immediately. He's based in Nevada, and has already two prototype modules in orbit that he launched aboard Russian rockets in the past few years. He'd like to get his commercial venture up into space but wants less expensive transportation to and from his station.

Today's news is attractive to Floridians who live on the 'Space Coast': Boeing's CST vehicle project will create 550 new jobs, good news to a region that is seeing thousands of jobs lost as the shuttle program winds down. The last shuttle to fly into space - the Atlantis - returned on July 21 this year. A day later, according to ABC, 1,500 shuttle program workers were given layoff notices, with thousands more to follow. It's not surprising today to see Central Florida News reporting the employment prospects news in bold type. Boeing says it decided to build the CST so it could attract some of the skilled (and jobless) shuttle workers and be close to its customer, NASA.

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Korva Coleman is a newscaster for NPR.