NASA announced on Dec. 10 the next step in its plan to launch American astronauts from U.S. soil, selecting three companies to conduct activities under contracts that will enable future certification of commercial spacecraft as safe to carry humans to the International Space Station (ISS).
Advances made by these American companies during the first contract phase known as the certification products contracts (CPC) will begin the process of ensuring integrated crew transportation systems will meet agency safety requirements and standards to launch American astronauts to the ISS from the United States, ending the agency’s reliance on Russia for these transportation services. The second phase of certification will result in a separately competed contract.
CPC contractors are:
- The Boeing Co., Houston, Texas, $9.99 million
- Sierra Nevada Corp. Space System, Louisville, Colo., $10 million
- Space Exploration Technologies Corp., Hawthorne, Calif., $9.6 million
During the Phase 1 CPC contracts, from Jan. 22, 2013 through May 30, 2014, the companies will work with NASA's Commercial Crew Program (CCP) to discuss and develop products to implement the agency's flight safety and performance requirements. This includes implementation across all aspects of the space system, including the spacecraft, launch vehicle and ground and mission operations.
Under the contract, a certification plan will be developed to achieve safe, crewed missions to the space station. This includes data that will result in developing engineering standards, tests and analyses of the crew transportation systems design.
The second phase of the certification contract, expected to begin in mid-2014, will involve a full and open competition. It will include the final development, testing and verifications necessary to allow crewed demonstration flights to the space station.
NASA is facilitating the development of U.S. commercial crew space transportation capabilities with the goal of achieving safe, reliable and costeffective access to and from lowEarth orbit for potential future government and commercial customers.
While NASA works with U.S. industry partners to develop these capabilities, the agency also is developing the Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System (SLS), a crew capsule and heavylift rocket to provide an entirely new capability for human exploration. Designed to be flexible for launching spacecraft for crew and cargo missions, SLS and Orion will expand human presence beyond low-Earth orbit and enable new missions of exploration in the solar system.