“We haven’t seen this much energy in the space program in several decades,” he said. “This is an exciting time.”
He did not say how many people would be involved in the move, which he called a “major transition.” A spokesman later said the total number would be “small” and include Jim Chilton, Boeing’s space and launch senior vice president, members of his executive team and support staff.
The announcement comes as the Trump administration is aiming to return humans to the moon by 2024. Boeing is building the rocket, the Space Launch System, that NASA plans to use to get to the moon. On Wednesday, the Government Accountability Office issued a scathing report that said the rocket may not be ready to fly until June 2021. But Muilenburg praised the project and the progress it has made and vowed that it would launch for the first time, sending a spacecraft without crew into orbit around the moon, next year.
The company is also preparing to fly NASA astronauts on its Starliner spacecraft, which has been under development for a number of years. Muilenburg said the first flight of the spacecraft without astronauts would take place this summer and the first flight with crews by the end of the year — a timeline many industry officials think is ambitious.
Boeing is also working to develop a spacecraft it calls the Phantom Express, which it hopes would be able to fly to orbit 10 times in 10 days.