Human Spaceflight Launches Will Return to the United States

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"NASA has just announced that Boeing and SpaceX have been selected to lead the Commercial Crew Program, founded in 2010. Boeing’s CST-100 and SpaceX’s Dragon V2 will be used to launch humans into Low Earth Orbit and to the International Space Station from Cape Canaveral beginning in 2017. This will be the first human spaceflight launch on American soil since the space shuttle program retired in 2011."

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NASA announced early this morning that at 4:00PM EST today, 16 September 2014, the winner of the Commercial Crew integrated Capability. will be revealed. The CCiCAP contract will give the selected company (or companies) the green light to build and ferry United States Astronauts to the International Space Station. It requires a crewed test flight with a NASA astronaut to the ISS by 2017.

This is the culmination of the Commercial Crew Development program which was started in 2010. There are currently three companies competing for the coveted NASA contract, SpaceX, Sierra Nevada, and Boeing. Each company’s vehicles are highlighted below, to give you a better sense of the craft that NASA has to choose from.

Company: Sierra Nevada
Vehicle: Dream Chaser

             The Dream Chaser vehicle is a modern redesign of NASA’sHL-10 lifting body vehicle that it designed in the 1990’s. The only one of the three vehicles that is not a capsule, it employs a lifting body design, and would land on any conventional runway. Docking to the International Space Station would be accomplished by a docking system located between the two primary Orbital Maneuvering System engines in the aft of the vehicle. Captive-Carry tests have already been completed on a full scale model, and that vehicle is currently undergoing heavy modifications to become the first Orbital test vehicle, which is slated to launch in 2016. It can transport up to seven people to space and back. Similar to the space shuttle, it can be reused an indefinite amount of times after maintenance.

More information here.

Company: Boeing
Vehicle: Crew Space Transportation 100

The CST-100 vehicle is a conventional space capsule similar to NASA’s Orion capsule. It would transport between 4-7 people to Low Earth Orbit, and could be configured for different missions, such as free flight or docked to a space station. Boeing has partnered with the Bigelow Aerospace company for many of the capsule’s parts, and it would also be used to transport crew to Bigelow’s inflatable space station. Similar to Orion, it can be reused up to ten times.

More information here.

Company: SpaceX
Vehicle: Dragon V2

The crewed Dragon capsule has been envisioned by SpaceX ever since its first unmanned flight back in 2008. The modified version of the capsule, more suitable for astronauts, was unveiled in late May of 2012. The vehicle can be reused up to ten times before significant refurbishment is required, and would land using a combination of landing struts and retrorockets. The company claims helicopter-like landing accuracy anywhere around the world. Seven astronauts could be transported to LEO.

More information here.

Today’s announcement will take place at Kennedy Space Center by NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden. It will be broadcast online as well as on NASA TV.

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Boeing and SpaceX Awarded $6.8 Billion Space Taxi Contract

NASA officially announced today that private companies Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and Boeing aerospace will be the lucky pioneers who will be bringing human space travel back to the United States and into the private sector.

The announcement was made late Tuesday afternoon by a panel of NASA officials, experts, and private sector representatives, including NASA administrator Charlie Bolden, Commercial Crew program managerKathryn Lueders, and astronaut Michael Fink.

Bolden in particular was grinning like a toddler on his birthday as he announced that human spaceflight was once again returning to US soil, and being placed in the hands of US companies.

"I’m giddy today," he admitted to the press. "I couldn’t be happier."

According to Bolden, this major decision was one of the hardest the agency has ever had to make, but it was more of a question of who would be getting the contracts, not if they were going to be awarded at all.

Since NASA retired its costly space shuttle program in 2011, US astronauts have been bumming rides to the International Space Station (ISS) on Russian Soyuz spacecraft, which are limited to bringing only three crew members at a time. Not only did this limit what kind of research could be conducted at the orbital lab, but it also was costing the agency $70 million a seat - a stunningly hefty cab fare.

This arrangement has been threatened, however, with increasing tension between the US and Russia following the Russian occupation of Ukraine, and the US had turned to its private sector for new options.

Continue Reading.

NASA bringing USA back on top - Boeing and SpaceX to launch astronauts to the ISS

By Charles Bolden -

Today, with the selection of Boeing and SpaceX to be the first American companies to launch our astronauts to the International Space Station, NASA has set the stage for what promises to be the most ambitious and exciting chapter in the history of human space flight.

READ MORE ON NASA

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