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NASA Awards Contracts for Commercial Human Space Flights

Dragon capsule (Space Exploration Technologies)

Dragon capsule (Space Exploration Technologies)

NASA signed new agreements today with three American companies to design and develop the next round of U.S. human space flights, succeeding the Space Shuttle and leading to a launch of astronauts from U.S. soil in the next five years. The agreements, which call for a base development period of 21 months, were made through NASA’s Commercial Crew Program with the Boeing Company, Sierra Nevada Corporation, and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX).

The Commercial Crew Program aims to achieve safe and reliable access to and from the International Space Station and low Earth orbit using U.S. space transportation services. After the capability is available to government and other customers, NASA anticipates contracting for commercial services to meet its station crew transportation needs.

Under the agreements, Boeing could receive up to $460 million for further development and refinement of its CST-100 spacecraft launched atop an Atlas V rocket, with associated launch services and ground systems. Boeing says it already completed tests on engines, abort systems, propulsion, heat shield jettison, attitude control, and landing systems.

NASA contracted with SpaceX in Hawthorne, California for the company’s crewed Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket in a deal valued at up to $440 million. SpaceX is expected to modify the Dragon capsule to seat seven astronauts, with escape and abort capabilities from launch pad to orbit, and propulsive landing system for gentle ground touchdowns.

In a $212.5 million deal, Sierra Nevada Corp. in Louisville, Colorado will update its Dream Chaser, a winged and piloted orbital commercial spacecraft, which resembles NASA’s space shuttle but smaller. The company says the Dream Chaser launches vertically on an Atlas V vehicle, and is capable of free flight in low Earth orbit and docking at the International Space Station.

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