NASA Awards Funding to Commercial Spaceship Developers

Published by: Andy on 19th Apr 2011 | View all blogs by Andy
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NASA Awards Funding to Commercial Spaceship Developers

NASA divvied up more than $269 million in funding on Monday to several companies vying to build commercial spaceships to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station.  Boeing received the largest share of the funds, $92.3 million, while Sierra Nevada Corp was awarded $80 million.  Space Exploration Technology, a company founded by PayPal co-founder Elon Musk, was given $75 million.  SpaceX, as it's often called, is reportedly considering an initial public offering next year.

Another company with Internet ties, Blue Origin, founded by Amazon's Jeff Bezos, was awrded $22 million in funding.  The companies are seeking the funding in connection with their participation in NASA's Commercial Crew Development program, which is aimed at developing privatized methods of space travel to replace the retiring space shuttles.

The U.S has already contracted flights to Russia's spac3e program, at a cost of $51 million per person, a price tag that is expected to increase to $63 million by 2014.  The Commercial Crew Development program is aimed at limiting our post-shuttle reliance on foreign nations with regards to space travel.  “We're committed to safely transporting U.S. astronauts on American-made spacecraft and ending the outsourcing of this work to foreign governments,” remarked NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.  “These agreements are significant milestones in NASA's plans to take advantage of American ingenuity to get to low-Earth orbit so we can concentrate our resources on deep space exploration.”

The firms that ended up receiving funding were reportedly chosen from an initial pool of 22 companies.  In addition to the government funds awarded, the companies are expected to invest their own resources, a stark contrast to how the U.S. space program has been run in the past.  The agreement covers work for about 14 months, after which NASA hopes to hold another funding competition for companies to develop an actual flight system.  NASA's ultimate goal is to be able to purchase commercial orbital space transportation by about 2015.

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