NASA’s Commercial Cargo & Crew Spending

Dragon spacecraft in orbit. (Credit: NASA)

In announcing its plan to send two people around the moon using the Falcon Heavy and Dragon 2 in 2018 before NASA can do so using its own rocket and spaceship, SpaceX paid tribute to the space agency that has funded its rise.

“Most importantly, we would like to thank NASA, without whom this would not be possible,” SpaceX said in a statement. “NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which provided most of the funding for Dragon 2 development, is a key enabler for this mission.”

NASA funding has been behind Elon Musk’s company every step of the way as SpaceX has developed Dragon and the Falcon 9 booster upon which the Falcon Heavy is based. So, no NASA and, in all likelihood, no SpaceX.

Just how much support has NASA provided these efforts? Try $7.2 billion in development and mission contracts. The table below shows funding for the space agency’s commercial cargo and crew programs.

Sources: The Annual Compendium of Commercial Space Transportation: 2017, FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation, and NASA Commercial Crew Program: Schedule Pressure Increases as Contractors Delay Key Events, GAO Report 17-137

SpaceX’s funding has come through three programs: Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS), Commercial Resupply Services (CRS), and the Commercial Crew Program (CCP). The contracts for the programs total $16.36 billion.

CCP has included four major rounds of funding — Commercial Crew Development (CCDev), Commercial Crew Development 2 (CCDev2), Commercial Crew Integrated Capabilities (CCiCap) and Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap). NASA also awarded certification products contracts (CPCs) to Boeing, SpaceX and Sierra Nevada Corporation.

Under COTS, NASA paid $396 million to SpaceX to develop the Falcon 9 booster and Dragon spacecraft as part of a public-private partnership. SpaceX contributed even more of its own funds toward development of these vehicles.

COTS was followed by a series of resupply contracts that have totaled $3.7 billion. Under CRS-1, NASA originally contracted for 12 flights at a cost of $1.6 billion. It later added five more missions to the contract for $1.2 billion. The CRS-2 contract calls for a minimum of six flights at $900 million, with the likelihood of additional orders.

The space agency is paying $3.125 billion to SpaceX for the development and initial flights of the upgraded Crew Dragon spacecraft, which will take astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). NASA is paying the majority of the development funding; it’s unclear how much SpaceX is contributing to the partnership.

Rival Boeing has received $4.8 billion from NASA for development and initial flights of the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft under the commercial crew program. Starliner’s initial orbital test without a crew is set for 2018.

Orbital ATK has been awarded $4 billion in development funding and ISS resupply contracts under the COTS, CRS-1 and CRS-2 programs. The company developed the Antares booster and the Cygnus supply ship under the COTS program.

Sierra Nevada Corporation was contracted to receive $363.1 million in contracts to develop its Dream Chaser shuttle before it was cut from the final round of the commercial crew program. The company has received a resupply contract of undisclosed value for at least six Dream Chaser missions to ISS, with the possibility of additional orders.

Both Sierra Nevada and Boeing plan to use United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Atlas V booster. ULA received $6.7 million to human rate the launch vehicle.

Blue Origin received $25.7 million during the first two funding rounds of commercial crew to work on an abort system. The company has continued working with NASA on various systems under unfunded Space Act Agreements. The agreements require each side to pay for its costs in the collaboration.

Paragon Space Development Corporation received $1.7 million under the first round of commercial crew to develop a life support system.