CSF: New NASA Plan Will Accelerate Commercial Space Industry

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Artist conception of a commercial crew vehicle approaching the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

CSF PRESS RELEASE

At a National Press Club event to “introduce new commercial space pioneers,” the President’s Science Advisor John Holdren and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden yesterday praised the seven winning companies of NASA’s Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) and Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) competitions.  This event followed the announcement on February 1 by the White House that NASA would use commercial spaceflight providers to transport NASA astronauts to the International Space Station.

The President’s Science Advisor praised the “complementary strength between NASA and the private sector in order to make human access both to low-Earth orbit and beyond to deep space faster, safer and more affordable.”  NASA Administrator Bolden added that with regard to commercial spaceflight, “It’s not a new idea, but rather, an idea whose time has come.  The future is unfolding before us now, and it couldn’t be more exciting… Kids will be able to realistically envision a career that involves space, either going there or using it.”

Bretton Alexander, President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, added, “The President’s new commercial crew initiative is on course to accelerate the growth of a vibrant 21st century commercial spaceflight industry, creating thousands of high-tech jobs and inspiring a new generation.”

Executives from Sierra Nevada Corporation, Boeing, United Launch Alliance, Blue Origin, Orbital Sciences, Paragon Space Development Corporation, and SpaceX came to Washington DC to attend the event.  Introducing these seven companies and their executives at the press event, Administrator Bolden stated, “These are the faces of the new frontier… We will certainly be adding to this group in the near future.”

SpaceX and Orbital Sciences are the funded participants in NASA’s ongoing COTS program for commercial resupply of the Space Station, and Sierra Nevada Corporation, Boeing, United Launch Alliance, Blue Origin, and Paragon Space Development Corporation were awarded $50 million in seed money for commercial crew through the CCDev program, intended as the precursor to a full $6 billion Commercial Crew Program proposed by NASA.  Both the CCDev and COTS programs are commercially structured so that NASA pays only when performance milestones are met.

Alexander added, “To have a large and diverse group of companies present at today’s event, including both established contractors and newer entrants, emphasizes that U.S. industry is ready to handle the task of commercial human spaceflight.  Commercial spaceflight means growing an entire industry that will generate returns to our economy and allow America to stop sending billions of dollars to Russia to fly our astronauts.”

In addition to other companies that are developing commercial space vehicles, the seven companies featured in the press conference were:

  • Sierra Nevada Corporation, which will receive $20 million in CCDev funds for development milestones for a seven-person spacecraft known as Dreamchaser which will launch on Atlas V.
  • The Boeing Company, which will receive $18 million in CCDev funds for development milestones for a seven-person crew capsule for low Earth orbit transportation.  Boeing partnered with Bigelow Aerospace, which is developing a series of habitable orbital complexes with two prototypes already in orbit.
  • United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin that operates the Atlas and Delta rockets, which will receive $6.7 million in milestone-based CCDev funds to begin developing an emergency detection system for ULA launch systems.
  • Blue Origin, which will receive $3.7 million in milestone-based CCDev funds to develop a composite crew test module and a launch escape system for its commercial spaceflight vehicle.
  • Orbital Sciences, which has been awarded $171 million in milestone-based COTS funds and received a follow-on contract for International Space Station missions, and is preparing its Taurus II rocket and Cygnus capsule for initial launches in 2011.
  • Paragon Space Development Corporation, which will receive $1.4 million in milestone-based CCDev funds for the development of an air revitalization system for use in crewed spacecraft.
  • SpaceX, which has been awarded $278 million in milestone-based COTS funds and received a follow-on contract for International Space Station missions, and is preparing its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule for initial launches this year.