NASA’s Commercial Crew Program By the Numbers

commercial_crew_cst100_dragon_iss
With the recent news that commercial crew flights to the International Space Station will likely slip to the end of 2018, I thought it would be a good time to review what NASA has spend on the program since it began in 2010. And, since NASA has separated cargo and crew, we will also look at the space agency’s commercial cargo programs.

The table below shows that NASA has given out nearly $8.4 billion in contracts to Commercial Crew Program partners over the past six years. These figures do not include NASA’s overhead.

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SpaceX, NASA Misled Public About First Commercial Resupply Flight

Falcon 9 launches on its first commercial resupply mission.
Falcon 9 launches on its first commercial resupply mission.

As SpaceX prepared to launch its first commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station in October 2012, there was a rather curious aspect about the mission. While the Dragon spacecraft was advertised as being able to carry 3,310 kg of cargo, the ship was only loaded with 450 kg of cargo — less than 14 percent of maximum capacity.

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Aerojet Rocketdyne to Supply Electrical Power System for Dream Chaser

Dream Chaser test vehicle prepares to ship. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)
Dream Chaser test vehicle prepares to ship. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Aug. 02, 2016 (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) — Aerojet Rocketdyne, a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:AJRD), has been awarded a contract from Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) to supply the electrical power system for the Dream Chaser, a commercial spacecraft that will carry cargo to and from the International Space Station. The system will regulate power generated from the solar arrays and distribute it to the reusable spacecraft’s avionics, thermal and propulsion systems, as well as payloads that require electrical power.

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Orbital ATK Purchases Additional Cygnus Modules

Cygnus approaches ISS (Credit: NASA)
Cygnus approaches ISS (Credit: NASA)

Farnborough, UK, 11 July 2016 (Thales Alenia PR) – Thales Alenia Space, a joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo-Finmeccanica (33%), today announced the signing of a new contract with Orbital ATK, Inc. (NYSE: OA) a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies. The announcement was made at the Farnborough International Airshow in Farnborough, UK.

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SpaceX Updates: Launch Scrubs & More Dragon Cargo Missions

Falcon 9 launch (Credit: SpaceX)
Falcon 9 launch (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX’s cancellation of a Falcon 9 launch on Thursday was the second scrub in 24 hours related to fueling problems.

The launch was canceled with 1 minute, 40 seconds left to go in the countdown. The problem related to loading of super cold “densified” liquid oxygen (LOX) that has been added to the newest variant of SpaceX’s launch vehicle.

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Praise for NASA’s Commercial Cargo Contract Awards

CSF_logo2Commercial Spaceflight Federation

NASA announced three cargo contract awards to ensure robust and affordable transportation of critical supplies, scientific experiments and commercial payloads to and from the International Space Station (ISS) through at least 2024. NASA selected Orbital ATK, Sierra Nevada Corporation, and SpaceX to continue and expand upon its successful public-private partnerships with American companies to obtain reliable cargo resupply services for the ISS.

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NASA to Award ISS Cargo Contracts on Thursday

Dragon CRS-4 spacecraft berthed at the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA TV)
Dragon CRS-4 spacecraft berthed at the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA TV)

On Thursday, NASA is scheduled to announce contracts to fly cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) for 2018 until 2024.

Four companies reportedly remain in the Commercial Resupply Services 2 competition: incumbents Orbital ATK and SpaceX, and challengers Boeing and Sierra Nevada Corporation. Lockheed Martin has been reportedly eliminated from the competition.

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NASA Again Delays CRS2 Contract Awards

NASA LOGONASA now expects to award new International Space Station cargo supply contracts on Nov. 5, about five months behind the original schedule.

On its website, the space agency said it needed “additional time to evaluate Final Proposal Revisions (FPRs)” for the Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) contracts.

NASA released its request for proposals on Sept. 25, 2014, with proposals due last Dec. 2. The award date was originally set for May, but it then slipped to June then September and now November.

Orbital ATK and SpaceX, who now hold CRS contacts. The companies have submitted proposals for the CRS-2 contract along with Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Sierra Nevada Corporation.