In 2011 soon after the last flight of the Space Shuttle program a new program was offered by NASA to bid on called Commercial Crew. Boeing threw their hat in with a bid along with many other companies. Boeing and SpaceX both won the large chunk of the award along with several other companies winning smaller awards. If I recall correctly Blue Origin was one of the smaller companies who won a piece of the pie.

I just returned to work after my 6-week medical leave for my kidney cancer surgery when I supported a meeting where the former Shuttle Program Manager pitched the idea of “CST-100” to the Houston Boeing Leadership. Soon after that the CCDEV (Commercial Crew Development) meetings started which included a large audience attending in conference rooms at several Boeing sites and on Webex. During that first meeting there were a lot of noise due to open microphones. I got a call to dial in to see what I could do to help manage the microphones remotely. I got on that meeting, and it was chaos with noise and other distractions. I used the online tools I had to help clear everything up. There were over 200 phone lines dialed in, so it was a battle getting the noise under control. I did get most of it cleared up but not all of it. After that meeting I was on the distribution list to be on the meeting to manage it to keep the comms open and clear.

That meeting evolved several times, but the biggest jump is when they wanted to use VTC (Video Tele-Conference). My job evolved into not only keeping the comms open and clear but to operate cameras at several of the sites from my desk. That meeting also evolved into being called PMR, or Program Management Review. I looked forward to helping the Engineers and Management do their job without having to worry whether there were open mics where someone at a desk is eating potato chips over the comms.

At that first meeting I was wearing a Corvette t-shirt under my collared shirt that said ‘It is nice to know America still builds Rocketships’. That shirt has a picture of two Corvettes with a Shuttle Launch in the background. Since I had that shirt on in that first meeting, I thought I would wear it for every PMR I supported, sort of as a good luck thing. Not just for me but for the Program.

Part of the contract with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, the contract award winners had to fly a demonstration flight without crew and perform a set of maneuvers before flying another test flight with Astronauts. We were neck and neck with SpaceX for many years in development. In fact, there was a goal each of us were after. When the last Shuttle departed Station, Commander Chris Ferguson left an American Flag on board the ISS so that the first Commercial Crew Vehicle would claim that flag for the company who brought the first Astronauts aboard. Chris was hired by Boeing to help develop the Starliner and was slated to be the first Astronaut to fly the spacecraft. He wanted to get that flag back for Boeing. Well, things did not work out that way and SpaceX owns that flag now.

This last week Boeing launched the second Orbital Flight Test which docked successfully with Space Station last night. During the first OFT Flight Boeing had given out shirts and other memorabilia to employees to celebrate Starliners first flight. That flight did not meet all the objectives, so a second test flight was mandated by NASA. With the launch this last week, everything was low key at work as far as celebrating. We were more of a wait and see to celebrate after each milestone. On that day, instead of wearing my OFT shirt, I wore my t-shirt under my collared shirt that I have worn at every PMR, sort of as a good luck Starliner thing.

When Starliner lands next week, we will celebrate, I will have that shirt on again. I don’t believe in luck but in the tenacity of engineering by the good folks I work with at Boeing. But it doesn’t hurt to wear the old worn-out shirt…. you know for luck.