NASA continues Commercial “push” with CRS extension
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla — Just 10 days after the Sept. 16 announcement that NASA had selected Boeing’s CST-100 and Dragon V2 spacecraft to move forward on the final phase of NASA’s Commercial Crew transportation Capability contract – the U.S. Space Agency is looking to deepen its ties with commercial partners. NASA has issued a request for proposals (RFP) for the next round of contracts under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS ) contract.
Under this agreement, private firms are tasked with sending cargo, experiments and crew supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). Proposals are due Nov. 14, the contracts that are awarded are described as being firm-fixed price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite quantity. If things move ahead according to schedule, the winners should be announced on May of 2015.
“The International Space Station is vital to the United States’ exploration efforts, a laboratory in orbit where we can work off the Earth, for the Earth,” said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations in a recent release. “To push beyond low-Earth orbit and on to Mars, we rely on American industry to keep the station supplied through cargo deliveries.”
NASA has stated that it will issue contracts for one or more companies for six and possibly more flights to the space station. At present, there are two private firms which conduct resupply flights to the ISS. Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corporation, which is headquartered out of Dulles, Virginia. SpaceX uses the company’s Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft with Orbital employing the Antares booster and Cygnus cargo vessel.
Under this extension, those selected would provide resupply services through fiscal year 2020, with an option to purchase additional flights through 2024. This matches with the extension which was recently announced for the ISS by the Obama Administration.
This extension could serve to enable firms the same way that it did SpaceX and Orbital. Under the CRS contract, both firms have not only been provided with revenue – but technical and logistical assistance as well.
The companies who are tapped under the second CRS contract will be required to demonstrate safe and reliable launch, rendezvous and berthing capabilities with the orbiting laboratory. If it is successful, it should see supplies delivered to the station through its current planned mission life.
In July 2011, the final Space Shuttle mission, STS-135, came to a close when Atlantis touched down at the Shuttle Landing Facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Little more than a year later, on Oct. 8, 2012, SpaceX launched the first, operational CRS mission, SpX-1. Under the initial CRS contract, SpaceX was awarded $1.6 billion to carry out 12 resupply flights to the station, with Orbital being awarded $1.9 billion to conduct eight missions.
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Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.