• Australian ambassador to US briefed on Starliner progress to launch, flies simulator in Houston visit

    January 19, 2018

    The Hon. Joe Hockey, Australia’s ambassador to the United States, traveled from Australia to Houston, Texas, to “space” this week when he took the controls of a Boeing CST-100 Starliner simulator to practise docking it to the International Space Station (ISS). As Australia forms its own space agency, the nation is reaching out to experienced organizations such as NASA and Boeing for expertise.

    “Boeing has been an integral partner to NASA from its beginning; we’ve built every U.S. spacecraft that has carried an astronaut into orbit, as well as designing, building and operating the ISS in partnership with NASA,” said Peter McGrath, Boeing director of Global Sales and Marketing for Space and Missile Systems. “We’re excited about our Australian friends’ establishment of their own space agency, and eager to help them meet their goals for human spaceflight.”

    During his briefings and tour of the Boeing facility in Houston and NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Ambassador Hockey tried out the same engineering simulators that Boeing engineers and NASA astronauts are using to evaluate Starliner cockpit designs and flight processes from countdown to launch, ISS docking, and landing back on Earth. Next, Hockey took on the virtual reality (VR) goggles and handheld controls of a flight simulator developed by Boeing Australia, and rendezvoused with the ISS again. The VR system was Boeing Australia’s first major space research and development initiative. It provides a high-resolution, interactive, real-time simulation for the Starliner spacecraft in a more mobile and affordable form than the full simulator.

    “Houston is in many ways part of the epicenter of space development around the world, and there is so much that we can learn,” said Ambassador Hockey. “We’ve been dormant for a while and now, in partnership with NASA and potentially Boeing and others, we can get back into space.”

    The Boeing Starliner program is on track to begin uncrewed and crewed flight tests this year. After entering service in 2019, it will conduct regular crew-rotation missions to the ISS, taking four astronauts and cargo to the orbiting laboratory on months-long flights.