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Boeing and NASA reach for the 'Starliner'

The Starliner will be assembled in Florida, with parts built at Boeing plants throughout the U.S.

Boeing's St. Louis-based Defense, Space & Security division is providing more details about a project with NASA that's designed to help resume U.S.-based human spaceflight.

The capsule that will carry astronauts to the International Space Station and other low-orbit destinations has been named "Starliner."

The announcement was made Friday at the Kennedy Space Center, where Boeing will build at least three capsules.

Company officials say simulator construction and some project testing are being carried out in St. Louis.

The initiative is on the leading edge of human spaceflight, says Boeing President Dennis Muilenberg.

"Frankly, it's one of the most important things we do. It's one of the most exciting things we do. And arguably the most inspiring thing we do for the next generation," Muilenberg said.  

He adds the project marks a key moment in a rejuvenated U.S. space program.

“You get a sense that at this point, we are witnessing something that we are all going to remember decades from now. This is a point in history that reflects a new era in human spaceflight," Muilenberg said.

The first crew mission is expected in mid-2017, but could be delayed by potential budget cuts.

NASA awarded the $4.2 billion contract to Boeing about a year ago as part of its Commercial Crew Program.

Wayne Pratt is the Broadcast Operations Manager and former morning newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio.