Private Spacecraft Companies Get $30M From NASA
December 11, 2012

NASA Gives Private Spacecraft Companies $30M To Build ISS Taxi

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

NASA has just handed out $30 million to the private spacecraft companies to help get their vehicles certified to fly to the International Space Station (ISS).

The U.S. space agency has been relying on the Russian Federal Space Agency to ferry its astronauts to and from the space station since it retired its space shuttle program in the spring of 2011. In the meantime, private U.S. companies have been working on plans to build and operate their own spacecraft to offer rides to the station.

NASA has given out $10 million to Sierra Nevada, $9.99 million to Boeing and $9.59 million to SpaceX to help kickstart the move towards no longer being dependant on Russia for rides to the ISS.

Through all of NASA's rounds of funding, Boeing has been given $460 million for its CST-100 capsule, SpaceX $440 to help it get its Dragon capsule ready to transport people, and Sierra Nevada $212 million for its work on the Dream Chaser.

Companies have used the NASA funds to help with spaceship designs that meet the space agency's safety requirements to carry humans.

"These contracts represent important progress in restoring human spaceflight capabilities to the United States," Phil McAlister, who oversees NASA's commercial spaceflight programs, said in a statement.

McAlister also says that NASA and its partners are committed to the goal of safely launching astronauts from U.S. soil in the next five years.

This phase of the most recent contracts will run from January 22, 2013 through May 30, 2014. The companies will be working with NASA's Commercial Crew Program (CCP) to discuss and develop products that meet the agency's flight safety and performance requirements.

"I congratulate the three companies for their selection," said Ed Mango, CCP manager at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. "This is the program's first major, fixed-price contract. The effort will bring space system designs within NASA's safety and performance expectations for future flights to the International Space Station."

The second phase of the certification contract will include a full and open competition. This phase will involve the final development, testing and verifications needed to allow manned demonstration flights to the space station.

NASA is also separately working on the Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System (SLS), which is a crew capsule and heavy-lift rocket system that could one day send humans to an asteroid or even Mars.