Stern, Garriott Say: Fund Commercial Crew

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

SwRI’s Alan Stern and Owen Garriott argue for the viability of NASA’s commercial crew program in Space News:

Fortunately, concurrent with the shuttle’s retirement, several commercial companies have the ability to launch payloads — and, with relatively modest modifications, even human-rated vehicles — into low Earth orbit (LEO). These include Boeing and Lockheed Martin through their United Launch Alliance joint venture, Space Exploration Technologies and Orbital Sciences, and one day not very far off might also include companies such as ATK, Sierra Nevada and Blue Origin.

These firms argue that their experience in delivering payloads to the international space station using proven launch vehicles like Atlas 5 and Falcon 9 can be extended in a timely way into a human transport capability to LEO at reasonable cost. We think they are right.

We also think that commercial crew LEO transport has the potential (and, many believe, high probability) of providing crew transport at a far lower cost. And not only should these alternatives be cheaper than a full NASA development program, they also should come on line more quickly, relieving our country of its soon-to-be complete dependence on Russia for access to LEO and the international space station.

Read the full op-ed.