NASA will be announcing a decision marking the largest shift in policy since the space shuttle took over in the wake of the Moon Landings.
What is it? They’ll announce which company will be building their next spaceship. Possibly spaceships.
Why? Why are they shifting the responsibility of space travel to companies? Well they’re only shifting the responsibility of Low Earth Orbit space travel… basically the area of space where the International Space Station orbits. Potentially this will reach all the way back to the Moon again.
What this does is it frees massive… inordinate amounts of their annual funding to move from having to produce and maintain their own spaceship, now these companies will take care of that.
NASA is moving on. They’re preparing to allow the private industry into space now and they’re moving focus from orbiting Earth… into deep space.
NASA will be focusing from now on, on a mission to Mars and missions beyond.
They’ll continue to work in LEO but this will no longer constitute disproportionate amount of their budget to do.
The three major competitors are:
Boeing: They’ve made the most expensive and least innovative space ship, it’s a capsule called the CST-100. It’s not a bad vehicle. It’s all running on proven science and is being produced by a company experienced in space travel. They’re often seen as the favored candidate. They launch on Atlas V rockets which require Russian engines to launch.
SpaceX: They’ve designed a capsule not dissimilar to Boeing’s in exterior, but in reality is far different. It will have the ability to land propulsively, meaning it can land with rockets gently lowering it to the surface of Earth as opposed to using parachute and crashing as slowly as possible. In addition to having new advances in technology, this choice would be much cheaper than the other three. SpaceX’s Dragon V2 space capsule will launch on a Falcon 9 rocket, all parts coming from America. This would be the cheapest option and arguably the most innovative.
Sierra Nevada: They’ve made a space ship a lot like a miniature space shuttle. An obvious difference is the method of launch which will be whilst mounted on the tip of an Atlas V rocket.
The Commercial Crew Development Program was initiated so that NASA will be able to refocus itself to deep space and while also allowing a private space industry to take hold. By selecting Boeing, they’d be supporting essentially a status quo company already involved in the launch industry. By selecting Sierra Nevada and/or SpaceX they’d be fostering start up companies and an atmosphere of even-playing field capitalism where the balance of new companies being able to survive depends entirely on how delicately launch contracts are parseled out.
Note that NASA may give money to each company. This would be the optimal option as having a variety of choices for their space ships would allow for flexibility were something to happen to either of the other companies ability to launch (it’s important to note that in this case there are lots of political problems between the U.S. and Russia, and all Boeing and Sierra Nevada’s space ships required the continued supply of RD-180 rocket engines from Russia).
I’m excited. I hope they give money to each.