American aerospace giant Boeing has unveiled new renderings of a new capsule spaceship that can transport passengers to and from space stations.
The spacecraft, called the Crew Space Transportation-100, or CST-100, is part of an $18 million contract with NASA to replace the iconic space shuttle when the last of the fleet is retired in 2011.
Boeing unveiled the design of the spacecraft on Monday.
The ship can carry up to seven people and will be sized somewhere between the larger Orion spacecraft and smaller Apollo capsule.
The good news: the spacecraft has been designed to accommodate several kinds of boosters, including United Launch Alliance's Atlas and Delta models and SpaceX's Falcon model.
It will use a simple systems architecture and existing, proven components, Boeing says.
The importance of the short-haul capsule -- the "100" stands for the 100 kilometers, or 62 miles, from ground to low-Earth orbit -- is that it not only that it replaces the space shuttle for NASA astronauts, but provides a vehicle for private spaceflight, which aligns with President Barack Obama's call for the commercialization of space travel.
To demonstrate this, Boeing has also partnered with Las Vegas-based commercial space firm Bigelow Aerospace, which is building a commercial space station called the Orbital Space Complex for launch in 2014. (See it in the second image at right.)