Boeing CEO is bullish on business in Earth orbit

Dennis Muilenburg
Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg speaks at Northwestern University, with a model of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket standing in front of him. (Boeing via Facebook)

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg predicts that the number of space destinations will grow from one — the International Space Station — to 10 or 12 over the next couple of decades, creating an “economically viable marketplace” in Earth orbit.

And he sees Boeing being in the thick of it.

Tonight Muilenburg sketched out a vision of space commerce and exploration that extended from low Earth orbit to Mars and beyond. The occasion was the 34th Annual Patterson Transportation Lecture, delivered at the Northwestern University Transportation Center near Boeing’s headquarters in Chicago.

Muilenburg repeated his controversial pledge that NASA’s heavy-lift Space Launch System, which has Boeing as one of its lead contractors, will be the first rocket to send humans to Mars. (SpaceX and its fans might beg to differ on that point.)

But it was his vision for a commercial transportation system in low Earth orbit that showed how many of Boeing’s interests — ranging from airplane and satellite manufacturing to its work on the Phantom Express space plane and CST-100 Starliner space taxi — come together on the final frontier.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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