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Three Private Firms in NASA's Next Generation of Spaceflights

First Posted: Aug 04, 2012 07:34 AM EDT
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NASA announced an agreement in which it declares the list of three American commercial companies selected to develop the next generation of U.S human spaceflight capabilities, enabling a launch of astronauts from U.S in the next 5 years.

The progress made by these companies under the newly signed Space Act Agreements through the agency's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative are intended to ultimately lead to the availability of commercial human spaceflight services for government and commercial customers.

The three companies chosen by NASA for this initiative are The Boeing Co. of Houston, Space Exploration Technologies, called SpaceX, of Hawthorne, Calif., and Sierra Nevada Corp. of Louisville, Colo.

"Today, we are announcing another critical step toward launching our astronauts from U.S. soil on space systems built by American companies," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. "We have selected three companies that will help keep us on track to end the outsourcing of human spaceflight and create high-paying jobs in Florida and elsewhere across the country."

Boeing gets a major chunk of $460 million.  It would launch on an Atlas rocket, with the first test flight set for 2016. NASA offers $440 million to Space X that used a rocket to launch its Dragon capsule which docked with space station to deliver cargo. Sierra Nevada's mini-shuttle crew vehicle called Dream Chaser carries seven people and could be flown without a pilot. NASA would give Sierra Nevada $212.5 million.

The objective of the commercial crew program (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 International Space Station and low Earth orbit.

William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington said, ""For 50 year's American industry has helped NASA push boundaries, enabling us to live, work and learn in the unique environment of microgravity and low Earth orbit. The benefits to humanity from these endeavors are incalculable. We're counting on the creativity of industry to provide the next generation of transportation to low Earth orbit and expand human presence, making space accessible and open for business."

While NASA works with U.S. industry partners to develop commercial spaceflight capabilities to low Earth orbit, it simultaneously is also developing the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) and the Space Launch System (SLS), a crew capsule and heavy-lift rocket to provide an entirely new capability for human exploration

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