Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, the natural competitor to the SpaceX Dragon

Boeing has used the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide to launch new Australian-based space industry initiatives, a day after the Turnbull Government announced that it would announce next March details about a forthcoming Australian Space Agency.

It said Boeing Australia’s first major space research and development initiative on display at IAC 2017 is a virtual reality solution developed by its defence and science team in Brisbane that provides a high-resolution, interactive, real-time simulation for its CST-100 Starliner capsule.

It’s Boeing’s first virtual reality (VR) system developed by employees outside the United States.

Supplementing Boeing’s physical Starliner simulator, the VR technology is a low-cost training alternative for astronauts to familiarise themselves with operating the Starliner and perform training procedures including how to dock with the International Space Station.

Boeing has signed an agreement with Australian space VR supplier, Opaque Space, a small enterprise in Melbourne. Opaque Space will collaborate with Boeing’s Brisbane team on future virtual reality space training scenarios for the Starliner.

The US aerospace company’s main space related activities in Australia involve defence services.

The Australian Defence Force currently has Boeing-built satellite communications supporting its operations. Australia became the first international participant in the Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) system under a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Air Force in 2007.  WGS provides flexible, high-capacity and resilient communications capabilities. The Ultra High Frequency hosted payload on the Intelsat 22 satellite delivers critical connectivity to Australian forces.

Other Australian-developed space technologies include a weather server that can analyse locations on the surface of the earth and objects in space, an application to connect teams during live test events such as space launches, and spacecraft cabin anti-microbial polymer research.

While delegates to IAC17 ponder just what the Australian Space Agency will look like, once yesterday’s announcement of its pending announcement gets real, the size and scope of Boeing’s established space related activities in this country have made it the most powerful and best connected entity that it will need to work with.

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