The impending space shuttle retirement has many worried that Americans will face an unprecedented gap in space travel. One of the main missions of the shuttles is to transport astronauts back and forth into space. This will leave U.S. progress in the hands of the Russians, who will charge $55.8 million per person to bring U.S. astronauts into space. But a possible solution is on the horizon. reports that Boeing is developing a new spacecraft that may soon be able to pick up where the space shuttles leave off.

Boeing’s new spacecraft is called the CST-100, and the company has received an $18 million award from NASA to fund it. The CST-100 will look like the spacecrafts of old, using the cone-shape favored by the Apollo missions. The CST-100 will also be similar to Orion, the spacecraft being developed for NASA by Lockheed Martin. The Orion spacecrafts were originally designed to take astronauts to the moon as part of the Constellation program. Now that Constellation has been cancelled, Orion will serve as a space station lifeboat.

But Orion is being designed for deep-space travel and can only carry four to six astronauts. The CST-100 will be lighter and bigger. The CST-100’s primary mission would be to transport astronauts to the International Space Station or future private stations, so it would not have the need for the type of deep-space infrastructure that Orion possesses. This allows CST-100 to transport up to seven passengers because there will be more room in the interior.

Keith Reiley is Boeing's commercial crew development program manager. As he told, "[The CST-100] is a little smaller than Orion, but a little bigger than Apollo. It carries seven, but it's fairly small – it's not as large or as spacious as the Orion." Not to mention, CST-100 will also be compatible with an assortment of rockets. The rocket is scheduled to be developed before 2016, a goal set by NASA.

Boeing is also teaming up with Bigelow Aerospace on the CST-100. Bigelow Aerospace is the privately owned company that has been working to launch private inflatable space habitats by 2016. The CST-100 may be used to transport space travelers back and forth to Bigelow’s space homes. As Bigelow Aerospace President Robert Bigelow wrote in a statement, "Commercial crew transportation has the potential to revolutionize the space industry for public and private sector entities alike."

For further reading:

Boeing is developing a new space capsule to transport astronauts
Aerospace giant hopes its new CST-100 capsule will replace the retiring space shuttles.