Boeing and Airstream Show off Their New Astronaut Transport Vehicle: the Astrovan II

When it comes to brand recognition, Airstream‘s got game. Their silver, space-age looking travel trailers and touring coaches are iconic. Almost everyone recognizes their riveted aluminum bodies.

Airstream has teamed up with Boeing to produce the Astrovan 2, a vehicle that will carry astronauts to the CST-100 Starliner’s launchpad at Cape Canaveral, Florida. It’s a modified Airstream Atlas Touring Coach, and it’s a one-of-a-kind custom build.

Boeing approached Airstream in 2018 about building the Astrovan 2. It’s not Airstream’s first foray into space-related endeavours. They built four Mobile Quarantine Facilities (MQF) for NASA’s Apollo astronauts when they returned from the Moon. After splashdown, astronauts spent their first few days in the MQFs as a precaution. The MQFs were carried on the aircraft carriers that retrieved the splashdown capsules.

The Apollo 11 astronauts in the Mobile Quarantine Facility on the aircraft carrier USS Hornet, with President Richard Nixon visiting them. By NASA – NASA on The Commons (image link), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20918764

Airstream also built the original Astrovan 1 that carried the Space Shuttle astronauts to the launch pad. It did so from STS-9 in November 1983 to the final Space Shuttle flight in 2011. Astrovan 1 was a modified 1983 Airstream Excella motorhome. It’s on display at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex next to the Space Shuttle Atlantis.

The interior of the original Astrovan on the left, and the new Astrovan 2 on the right. Image Credit: Airstream.

Astrovan 2 is built on a Mercedes Benz chassis, just like Airstream’s other coaches. Airstream’s been building their iconic vehicles since the 1930s. They’re manufactured in the USA, at the company’s facility in Ohio.

The first Astrovan with one of the Space Shuttles. Image Credit: Airstream.

No American astronauts have launched to the ISS from US soil since the last Space Shuttle flight in 2011. Since then, they’ve used Russian Soyuz capsules to reach the ISS. Boeing intends to deliver American astronauts to the ISS with their Starliner system, though no specific date has been set.

An Airstream Mobile Quarantine Facility being loaded onto an aircraft carrier. Image Credit: Airstream.
Evan Gough

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