NASA Looking for More Space Taxis


NASA is looking for more ways to get astronauts to the International Space Station. The space agency put out a call today for commercial space companies to submit bids as part of the latest round of the Commercial Crew Program, now called Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCICap). NASA plans to select at least two potential providers for “safe, reliable, and cost effective human access to space” and they expects to make multiple awards this summer, with values ranging from $300 – $500 million. Those winning the bids will need to develop an integrated system that includes both a crew vehicle and launch system, with work to be completed May 31, 2014.

NASA currently relies on Russian Soyuz vehicles to bring crews to the station, at a cost of $63 million per seat. The Soyuz has experienced unprecedented recent problems with both the Soyuz rocket and now a delay in the next two Soyuz flights to the ISS due to a leak of the capsule during testing.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manager Ed Mango spoke at a forum this morning, prior to NASA’s official CCICap announcement and said the hopes are that an initial crewed demonstration flight to low Earth orbit will take place in 2015-2016, with regular commercially operated flights to the ISS beginning around 2017.

The projected timing and funding all hinges on whether Congress approves NASA’s budget request; Legislators provided $406 million for Commercial Crew in 2012, less than half of what the agency requested.

“President Obama is working hard to create an American economy built to last,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a NASA press releases. “NASA’s support of commercial innovation to reach low Earth orbit is helping to support these efforts by spurring new technological development and creating jobs and economic benefits for years to come.”

The companies will also need to provide ground operations and mission control, and to meet certain milestones in the development in of a crewed orbital demonstration flight.

Current companies receiving funds from NASA for commercial crew are Boeing, Sierra Nevada, SpaceX, and Blue Origin. Companies have until March 23, 2012 to submit their proposals.

Sources: NASA, Space News

5 Replies to “NASA Looking for More Space Taxis”

  1. Given sufficient funding SpaceX could have first crewed trial in 2014, they have already had one test flight of the un-manned version and have one gound test of the escape engine. Work needs to progress on integrating the engines into the capsual and that takes money which SpaceX can not spend on its own as quickley as its engineers could work on it if given the funds. Additional funding now could save 1-2 years of paying for Russian seats.

    1. As Musk likes to point out, SpaceX could launch crew today with at least the safety of the STS. Actually better, since you have a separable capsule away from the fuel and not strapped amidst a set of fuel stores.

      It is but when you compare with capsules like Soyuz that you want a launch abort system.

      Of course, that would be the as of yet unlaunched solar panel version, or you couldn’t go to ISS but only orbit once or twice on batteries.

      So yes, all you say is what will happen. But it is against “new” and better standards than before.

      1. Be careful of what e CEO of a private company claims. I have been working in private companies many many many years. It is not that romantic as a CEO claims to be.

        In a lot of cases the probably took many shortcuts to get to the deadlines.

  2. Well, I see we are now taking a giant step backward to where the space program should have been all along. In the 60’s, the U.S. Air Force set up a Space School with Chuck Yeager as Commandant to develop space flight for the military using lifting body research. The government yanked that away from the Air Force and claimed NASA as the only “space worthy” organization to develop space flight. With their capsule approach NASA ignored years of research and development to go with an expensive and antiquated approach. Even the Space Shuttle never lived up to it’s vaunted initial reputation. I’m glad to see a return to re-usable lifting bodies for space taxi work.

    1. Yes, but I have to think that SpaceX has the better and more advanced design. They took the best, reusable and space port return part, out of a SSTO design and put it in a small construction without having to bother about tank weight vs construction.

      Presumably the Dream Chaser will have very little payload and satellite launch capabilities to go with the crew. It is not as good as an orbital/ISS delivery system.

      But it is excellent for a versatile suborbital/orbital crew delivery and tourist platform. And it haz the looks for it! [/salivating]

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