NASA today continued its development of commercial space systems by splitting a little over $1.1 billion with Boeing, Space Exploration Technologies (Space X) and Sierra Nevada to develop and build advanced spaceships.
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NASA said it expects the new agreements to allow the launch of astronauts from U.S. soil in the next five years. Between now and May 31, 2014, NASA said its partners will perform tests and mature integrated designs. This would then set the stage for a future activity that will launch crewed orbital demonstration missions to low Earth orbit by the middle of the decade.
The funding breakdown looks like this:
-- The Boeing Company, Houston, $460 million
-- Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), Hawthorne, Calif., $440 million
-- Sierra Nevada Corporation, Louisville, Colo., $212.5 million
The awards are part of NASA's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) under the space agency's Commercial Crew Program (CCP). "The objective of the CCP is to facilitate the development of a U.S. commercial crew space transportation capability with the goal of achieving safe, reliable and cost-effective access to and from the International Space Station and low Earth orbit. After the capability is matured and expected to be available to the government and other customers, NASA could contract to purchase commercial services to meet its station crew transportation needs," NASA stated.
All three companies have been already developing space systems with NASA support. In a report last year NASA outlined their progress:
Boeing: Boeing engineers presented numerous updates and improvements to their CST-100 spacecraft design. These updates included improved protection from orbital debris and changes to the crew module, which enables improved packaging and mounting of tanks and other equipment. Boeing also presented a comparison of their architecture with the latest drafts of NASA's requirements and standards for International Space Station (ISS) commercial crew transportation.
Space X: SpaceX plans to continue to mature their crew transportation system, with emphasis on Launch Abort System (LAS). SpaceX's crew transportation system features the existing and flight-proven Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft which have been designed since inception for crew carriage.
Sierra Nevada: NASA's investment in Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) will help advance the company's commercial crew transportation system design through a Preliminary Design Review. The spacecraft, known as Dream Chaser, is a reusable, piloted lifting body derived from NASA's HL-20 and will be launched on an Atlas V launch vehicle.
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