Bids in for CCDev 2: Boeing, Orbital Sciences, SpaceX, Sierra Nevada and Virgin Galactic

Boeing's proposed commercial capsule.
Artist's conception of Boeing's commercial crew module. (Credit: Boeing)

Bids were submitted to NASA yesterday for phase 2 of the Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program, the space agency’s effort to field commercial crew launchers and spacecraft to service the International Space Station.  At stake is about $200 million in contracts that will be awarded in March.

According to press releases and media reports, the bids include Boeing’s CST-100 crew transport, SpaceX’s Falcon 9/Dragon system, Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser shuttle, and a new lifting-body vehicle from Orbital Sciences Corporation. Media reports indicate that Virgin Galactic has partnered with both Sierra Nevada and Orbital Sciences in separate bids.

Most of these bids were expected. Boeing and Sierra Nevada Corporation received funding for their projects under CCDev 1. SpaceX did not participate in the first phase due to the small amount of money available ($50 million), but it had made its intentions clear to seek  NASA funding to upgrade its Dragon freighter and Falcon 9 rocket for crew transport.

SNC Dream Chaser docks with the International Space Station. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

It is not surprising that Virgin Galactic would partner with Sierra Nevada, with whom it is working on propulsion technology for the former’s SpaceShipTwo suborbital tourism vehicle. However, the joint bid with Orbital Sciences is a surprise