NASA awards funding to four companies as part of CCDev2

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NASA has awarded four Space Act Agreements worth a total of $269.3m (£164.5m) in the second round of the agency’s Commercial Crew Development (CCDev2) programme.

Each company will receive between $22m and $92.3m to advance commercial crew space transportation system concepts and mature the design and development of elements of their systems, including launch vehicles and spacecraft.

The companies selected for CCDev2 awards are Blue Origin ($22m), Sierra Nevada Corporation ($80m), Space Exploration Technologies ($75m) and Boeing ($92.3m).

Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, will use its funding to develop a launch escape system that will enable the company’s Dragon spacecraft to carry astronauts, while Sierra Nevada Corporation will advance the development of its Dream Chaser orbital space transportation system.

Boeing said it would use the funds to mitigate programme risk and mature the system design of its Crew Space Transportation 100 (CST-100) spacecraft.

Blue Origin is developing New Shepard, a vertical-take-off, vertical-landing vehicle designed to take a small number of astronauts on a sub-orbital journey into space. It has not released details of how it will use the money.

After the Space Shuttle retires, NASA will rely on the Russian Soyuz to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS). SpaceX estimates this will cost more than $753m a year.

‘We’re committed to safely transporting US astronauts on American-made spacecraft and ending the outsourcing of this work to foreign governments,’ said 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.’

Commercial space exploration technology could enable low-cost access to space for both tourists and scientists. Click here to read more.