NASA reported on Sept. 12 that it has released a request for proposals for the first of two contract phases to certify commercially developed space systems in support of crewed missions to the International Space Station. Through these certification products contracts, NASA's Commercial Crew Program (CCP) will ensure commercial missions are held to the agency's safety requirements and standards for human space transportation system missions to the space station.
NASA's request for proposals outlines a two-phase approach in which the first phase awards will be made to multiple companies. The companies will provide data related to the development of their Crew Transportation System (CTS) design, including a spacecraft, launch vehicle, ground and mission operations and recovery. NASA plans to award up to $10 million to each company in early 2013 for the first phase.
The first phase will last about 15 months, during which companies will outline their strategies to meet the agency's required standards and safety requirements before a CTS could be approved to fly NASA astronauts to the space station.
At the conclusion of the first phase, the agency anticipates more than one company will be ready to compete for the second certification phase contract. The second phase will be open to any company with systems at the design maturity level of Phase 1. The second phase will include development, testing, evaluation and certification activities enabling NASA to assess and approve the CTS capability for performing space station missions in compliance with NASA requirements.
The objective of 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 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.
While NASA works with U.S. industry partners to develop commercial spaceflight capabilities to low Earth orbit, 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 across the solar system.
For more information about NASA's Commercial Crew Program, visit www.nasa.gov/commercialcrew.
In other NASA news, the organization says it is seeking proposals for its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs that will create the new technologies needed to enable the agency's future missions while benefiting America.
The SBIR and STTR Programs are designed to provide small businesses and non-profit research institutions with opportunities to compete for federal research and development awards and to stimulate the commercialization of the resulting technology. The programs address specific technology gaps in NASA missions, while striving to complement other agency research investments. Program results have benefited many NASA efforts, ranging from modern air traffic control systems, Earth-observing spacecraft and the International Space Station to Curiosity now roving the Red Planet.
This year's call includes a new component to NASA's SBIR Program. NASA has added seven select topics in SBIR, representing unique space technology development challenges the agency believes are well suited to the innovation and problem-solving abilities of America's small businesses. By complementing its own efforts with these seven areas, NASA is hoping to improve on an already great program that benefits the agency and America's new technology economy.
The highly competitive SBIR and STTR programs are based on a three-phase award system. Phase 1 is a feasibility study to evaluate the scientific and technical merit of an idea. Firms successfully completing Phase 1 are eligible to submit Phase 2 proposals, expanding on the results of Phase 1. Phase 3 includes commercialization of the results of Phase 2, and requires the use of private sector or non-SBIR federal funding as innovations move from the laboratory to the marketplace.
The deadline for the two program solicitations is Nov. 29. Selections are expected to be announced in late February 2013. NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., manages the SBIR and STTR programs for the agency's Space Technology Program. NASA's 10 field centers manage individual projects.
For more information about NASA's SBIR and STTR solicitations, including how to apply, visit sbir.nasa.gov.
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