KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - Boeing is one of two companies working with NASA to once again launch astronauts from American soil. On Friday, amidst the fanfare of music and flashing lights, the company unveiled its new spacecraft assembly line, where the longtime aircraft manufacturer will build their newly branded space capsule, the "Starliner."
"Frankly, it's one of the most important things we do, most exciting things we do, and arguably one of the most exciting things we do for the next generation," said Christopher Chadwick with Boeing.
Boeing's new spacecraft production and refurbishment facility is housed in the same Kennedy Space Center building where, for thirty years, the old Space Shuttle Orbiters were brought for processing. But after sitting idle for the last four years, the building, once called OPF-3, is getting a new mission. Boeing is bringing it's process of building aircraft to the construction of spacecraft. This facility can handle the production of three spacecraft at a time, moving them to different areas with stands that are on wheels, so different tasks can be completed in a more efficient manner.
"It won't be long until the smoke and fire you see here at Cape Canaveral is from commercial rockets launching human beings once again, into our future in space," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.
Starting in 2017, Boeing plans to build three Starliners at first, and then refurbish them for two flights a year to the international space station. All of them will go through this facility, which was refurbished with $20 million in state taxpayer dollars.. In turn, the Chicago-based aerospace company promised to bring 550 new jobs to Florida's Space Coast, but that didn't stop Gov. Rick Scott from asking for more.
When the first Starliner rolls off this assembly line, it will mark the end of America's reliance on Russia to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station. At the same time, NASA will return to flying our own astronauts into space, on machines that once again, will be made in America.