Space Dev Alliance Proposes National Cheap Access to Space Prize

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The newly established Alliance for Space Development (ASD) wants to introduce a bill in Congress offering $3.5 billion in prize money for companies capable of flying fully reusable human spacecraft into orbit.

The Cheap Access to Space (CATS) Act would establish a goal for private companies to place a 1 metric ton payload with at least two crew members into a circular orbit of 400 km at 51.6 degrees inclination, according to a draft of the measure.

A $1 billion tax-exempt prize would be paid to the first entrant to repeat the flight using the same vehicle within one week of returning to Earth. A $750 million tax exempt prize would be awarded to the second entrant to achieve that milestone.

A second set of $1 billion and $750 million prizes would be awarded to the first two entrants that can launch the same vehicles into orbit 10 times within 10 weeks.

The proposed measure would allow for the changing out of line replaceable units (LRUs) between flights if such actions are part of the vehicle’s design. A thermal protection system could qualify as a LRU; an engine would not.

The measure would place the prize competition under the control of the Department of Commerce’s Office of Space Commercialization.

The measure was announced during an ASD press conference last week that was attended by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.).

ASD is a group founded by the Space Frontier Foundation and the National Space Society. It also includes Lifeboat Foundation, Mars Foundation, Mars Society, Space Development Steering Alliance, Space Tourism Society, Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, Students on Capitol Hill, Tea Party in Space and Texas Space Alliance.