WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA released a request for information from American industry capable of providing safe, reliable, and cost-effective human space transportation services to and from the International Space Station to ensure a continuous human presence aboard the microgravity laboratory.
NASA is considering the acquisition of commercial crew space transportation services from one or more U.S. providers through commercial services contracts as the agency works to extend the life of the space station beyond 2024. This would allow for a seamless transition to commercially operated, low-Earth orbit destinations and allow NASA to continue its vital scientific research to prepare for human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit to benefit life on Earth.
“NASA has a need for additional crew rotation flights to the space station beyond the twelve missions the agency has awarded Boeing and SpaceX under the current contracts,” said Phil McAlister, director of the commercial spaceflight division at NASA Headquarters. “Commercial crew transportation services are going to be needed into the foreseeable future, and we want to maintain competition, provide assured access to space on U.S. human launch systems and continue to enable a low-Earth orbit economy.”
With the continued advancement on U.S. human spaceflight, NASA is soliciting information on the availability of existing agency certified crew systems and estimated timelines on the availability of future systems capable of accomplishing certification no later than 2027.
Depending on mission requirements, NASA may purchase single seats, multiple seats within one mission, or an entire mission.
In 2014, NASA awarded the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts to Boeing and SpaceX through a public-private partnership as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. Under CCtCap, NASA certifies that a provider’s space transportation system meets the agency’s requirements prior to flying missions with astronauts. After years of development, commercial crew systems have achieved or are nearing operational readiness for regular crewed missions, including providing a lifeboat capability, to the space station.
For more than 20 years, NASA has continuously had astronauts living and working aboard the International Space Station, advancing scientific knowledge and demonstrating new technologies, making research breakthroughs not possible on Earth. As a global endeavor, 246 people from 19 countries have visited the unique microgravity laboratory that has hosted more than 3,000 research and educational investigations from researchers in 108 countries.
The station is a critical testbed for NASA to understand and overcome the challenges of long-duration spaceflight and to expand commercial opportunities in low-Earth orbit. As commercial companies focus on providing human space transportation services and developing a robust low-Earth orbit economy, NASA is preparing for human exploration of the Moon and Mars.