Decision on Commercial Crew Program likely to be made after Labor Day weekend
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla — For the primary competitors under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program one day next week could be a very good day for one or two of them. CCP, the effort to cede responsibility in delivering astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) is poised to undergo yet another selection process. SpaceFlight Insider has received reports that the announcement could be made as to which companies move forward in this program – some time after Labor Day weekend (Sept. 1).
The selection of which of the three primary entries will move on to the Commercial Crew transportation Capability or “CCtCap” phase – has been eagerly anticipated within the space community over the past several months. Those vying for the contractual prize include: Space Exploration Technologies’ (SpaceX ) Dragon spacecraft, Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser space plane and Boeing’s CST-100 capsule. It is hoped that these spacecraft will be able to ferry crews to the ISS as early as 2017. Blue Origin’s Space Vehicle is also listed as the fourth company that is part of of the Commercial Crew Program (CCP ).
The road to this final selection process – has been a long and interesting journey.
In 2010, five U.S. companies (Blue Origin, Boeing, Paragon Space Development Corporation, Sierra Nevada Corporation, and United Launch Alliance) were provided funding totaling an estimated $50 million collectively, in order to develop crew-rated low-Earth-orbit spaceflight technologies. Later in October of 2010, NASA again called for proposals for project development lasting up to 14 months.
Just months prior to the Space Shuttle program drawing to a close, an announcement was made in April 2011 that NASA would be providing $270 million to the companies that could meet the objectives for the second phase of the Commercial Crew Development (CCDev 2). The companies awarded funding under this round were Blue Origin ($22 million), Boeing ($92.3 million), SpaceX ($75 million), and Sierra Nevada ($80 million).
The most recent phase of the CCP, was dubbed Commercial Crew Integrated Capability or “CCiCap.”
Enacted in August 2012, this phase is due to expire this year – when it will be replaced by the FAR Part 15 contract – CCtCap. CCtCap should write the closing chapters of the developmental period of the Commercial Crew Program. At present, the United States is dependent on Russia for rides to the International Space Station. CCP is designed to end this situation, to allow U.S. firms to send crews to the ISS so that the space agency can focus on deep space exploration.
NASA’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office (C3PO ) will continue to manage each phase of the program as it develops.
“We’re extremely pleased with the progress our commercial partners are making,” said the manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program Kathy Lueders, NASA Commercial Crew Program deputy manager. “We continually marvel at the ingenuity of our partners and are confident that we will have the ability to launch our astronauts from U.S. soil aboard American-made systems in a few years.”
Please check back with SpaceFlight Insider for updates regarding the upcoming announcement and the Commercial Crew Program
This article was edited on Aug. 30 at 1:49 p.m. EDT to add the date of Labor Day
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.