NASA Awards Development Grants
August 5, 2012

NASA Awards Development Grants to SpaceX, Boeing, Sierra Nevada

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Three commercial aerospace development firms have been awarded a share of more than $1 billion in NASA grants as part of a program to complete a new spacecraft to transport American astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), various media outlets have reported.

The US space agency has awarded contracts totaling $1.1 billion to SpaceX, Boeing, and the Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) as part of their Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative, the AFP news agency reported on Saturday. Those grants come in order to help the three companies to develop a successor to the space shuttle program, which was retired in 2011, and to provide a domestic alternative to the Russian-made Soyuz capsules currently used to make the journey.

On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Boeing and SpaceX were the frontrunners for the bulk of the NASA awards, and indeed they did receive the lion's share of the funds, according to Wired's Helene McLaughlin.

Houston, Texas based Boeing was granted $460 towards the development of their CST-100 capsule, while SpaceX received $440 towards their Falcon 9 launcher and Dragon capsule. Sierra Nevada was awarded $212.5 million to continue work on their reusable commercial crew transport module, known as the Dream Chaser, McLaughlin wrote in an August 3 article.

The CCiCap program is part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program (CCP) initiative, which the organization said "was formed to facilitate the development of a U.S. commercial crew space transportation capability with the goal of achieving safe, reliable and cost-effective access to and from the International Space Station and low Earth orbit."

"NASA expects to bridge the American spaceflight gap left by the retirement of the Space Shuttle Program and begin buying seats on US commercial space systems near the middle of the decade," they explained. "Before NASA would begin using a commercially developed system to transport its astronauts to and from the Space Station, the system must be certified as meeting NASA´s safety requirements throughout an entire mission cycle. Certification of commercial systems for NASA transportation missions will be pursued in a future, separate phase under the CCP."

Previously, the US space agency had also provided funding to Kent, Washington-based Blue Origin; Tucson, Arizona-based Paragon Space Development Corporation; Centennial, Colorado-based United Launch Alliance (ULA); Promontory, Utah-based Alliant Techsystems Inc. (ATK); and Houston-based Excalibur Almaz Inc. Those awards were made as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Development Round 1 (CCDev1) phase, which began in 2010, and the ongoing Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2) phase.