NASA awarded four Space Act Agreements worth $269.3 million in the second round of the agency’s Commercial Crew Development effort in April. Each company received between $22 million and $92.3 million to advance commercial crew space transportation system concepts and mature the design and development of systems elements, such as launch vehicles and spacecraft. The four companies, Blue Origin in Kent, Wash., Sierra Nevada Corporation in Louisville, Colo., Space Exploration Technologies in Hawthorne, Calif., and The Boeing Company in Houston, are working to accelerate the availability of U.S. commercial crew transportation to the International Space Station and reduce the gap in American human spaceflight capability. This activity is expected to spur economic growth as potential new markets are created. Crew transportation capabilities then could become available to commercial and government customers.
All of NASA’s commercial partners are meeting established milestones. NASA program managers also signed several unfunded Space Act Agreements with commercial partners during the year. In July, NASA and United Launch Alliance (ULA) managers agreed to work together on the Atlas V, a flight-proven expendable launch vehicle used for critical space missions. The agency agreed to share its human spaceflight experience and human certification requirements with ULA to advance its crew transportation system capabilities. ULA will provide feedback to NASA about those requirements, including input on the technical feasibility and cost effectiveness of NASA’s proposed certification approach. In September, NASA and Alliant Techsystems agreed to collaborate on the development of the company’s Liberty Launch System. The agreement enables the two parties to review and discuss Liberty system requirements, safety and certification plans, computational models of rocket stage performance and avionics architecture designs. September also marked the release of a draft request for proposals outlining a complete end-to-end transportation system design, including spacecraft, launch vehicles, launch services, ground and mission operations and recovery. The Integrated Design Contract of up to $1.61 billion is scheduled to run from July 2012 through April 2014. In December, NASA announced a modified approach for supporting commercial crew capability. The agency will competitively award Space Act agreements for the next phase of the Commercial Crew Program instead of awarding contracts. The move will keep on track the agency’s plan for U.S. companies to transport astronauts into space and ultimately will end outsourcing the work to foreign governments.