NASA Names Three Companies to Develop Spacecraft for Manned Spaceflight Missions
Posted on August 3, 2012
NASA has announced new agreements with three American commercial companies to design and develop the next generation of U.S. human spaceflight capabilities. The three companies are Sierra Nevada Corporation, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and The Boeing Company. The image above is a computer generated illustration of a SpaceX Dragon Crew spacecraft in Earth orbit showing solar panels in the process of deploying.
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 goal is to enable a launch of astronauts from U.S. soil in the next five years.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement, "Today, we are announcing another critical step toward launching our astronauts from U.S. soil on space systems built by American companies. 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."
SpaceX also made an announcement in regards to receiving the NASA contract. SpaceX said in a press release that it will make these final modifications necessary to prepare Dragon to safely transport astronauts into space:
- Seats for seven astronauts.
- The most technically advanced launch escape system ever developed, with powered abort possibilities from launch pad to orbit. SpaceX will demonstrate that Dragon will be able to escape a launch-pad emergency by firing integrated SuperDraco engines to carry the spacecraft safely to the ocean. SpaceX will also conduct an in-flight abort test that allows Dragon to escape at the moment of maximum aerodynamic drag, again by firing the SuperDraco thrusters to carry the spacecraft a safe distance from the rocket.
- A breakthrough propulsive landing system for gentle ground touchdowns on legs.
- Refinements and rigorous testing of essential aspects of Dragon's design, including life-support systems and an advanced cockpit design complete with modern human interfaces.