Home / Engineering on the Edge / NASA Moves Forward With Commercial Crew Program

NASA Moves Forward With Commercial Crew Program

NASA released the draft solicitation for the final phase of its Commercial Crew Program, which is funding commercial development of systems to get astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

In the third round of the program, Boeing Space Exploration Systems, Sierra Nevada/Space Systems, and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) received funding. All three companies have developed vehicles that could take seven people into space.

Sierra Nevada's DreamChaser vehicle. Image: Sierra Nevada Space Systems

During the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) phase of the project, NASA will award between two and six post-certification missions to the space station “during the period of performance prior to a follow-on space station services contract,” according to the program’s website.

Next year, one or more companies will be awarded contracts for ferrying astronauts to the space station, and NASA will focus its efforts on validating the safety of the system or systems selected for the project. A CCtCap contractor will also manage long-term production and operational plans for the crew transportation system. To achieve certification, the contractors will need to complete at least one crewed flight test to the space station.

The agency expects to launch two flights per year. The final version of the solicitation is expected this fall. You can read the draft solicitation here.

One big question mark clouding the program’s future, however, is NASA’s ongoing fight for the required funding. In the meantime, the U.S. has relied on Russian Soyuz vehicles to reach the ISS.

Source: NBC News

About Brian Albright

Brian Albright is a contributing editor to Digital Engineering. Send e-mail about this article to DE-Editors@digitaleng.news.