NASA Gains Breathing Room On Commercial Crew Program

NASA has negotiated a continuation of its successful Space Acts Agreements (SAA) procedures for contracting and funding of the next phase of its Commercial Crew Program (CCP). The SAA has also been the process for NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS), which saw the flight of the SpaceX Dragon to the International Space Station (ISS) with cargo, and its return with science experiments and no longer needed space station equipment.

The deal, worked out between NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and the chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee, Representative Frank Wolf (R-Va), will allow NASA to select 2.5 partners under the CCP using SAA rather than the more restrictive and cumbersome Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). Wolf’s statement on his website was followed by a letter from Bolden.

The agreement allows the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCAP) phase of CCP to proceed under SAA rules, but then commits NASA to using FAR procedures for certification and procurement of services.

There was also agreement to fund the program at the Senate level of $525 million, although Bolden in his letter urged the conference committee to fund the CCP at a higher level for 2013. The Administration had originally requested $836 million.

Contenders in the Commercial Crew arena include:

  • Space Exploration Technologies Corporation – SpaceX – Dragon
  • Sierra Nevada Corporation – SNC – Dream Chaser
  • Boeing – CST-100
  • Blue Origin – New Shepherd

CCDev2 – Blue Origin

Blue Origin
Blue Origin Spacecraft
Image Credit:
NASA / Blue Origin

Third in our series on the second round of funding in the Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program is the secretive Blue Origin company. The award of $22 million has been announced by NASA.

Funding from this round will help with development through the requirements review stage including work on the thermal protection system and an analysis of the aerodynamics of its cone shaped body.

The spacecraft is designed to carry seven astronauts to low Earth orbit.

It will carry astronauts and cargo to and from the International Space Station and serve as an ISS emergency escape vehicle for up to 210 days. The vehicle is designed for launch on an Atlas V rocket.