The dust has settled on the final round of NASA's Commercial Crew integrated Capability program project, and three winners have been given funding for the next round of American-made space taxis: Boeing, who received $460 million; SpaceX with $440 million; and the Sierra Nevada Corporation, with a paltry $212.5. The companies will use it as seed money to create commercial spacecraft that U.S. astronauts will fly aboard.
With NASA's space shuttle program shelved, it's had to compensate for all of the spacecraft it won't be making itself, instead investing in companies that have shown promise in creating commercially viable, safe spacecraft. Once those companies have created one, NASA can put their astronauts on board (maybe even alongside civilian space tourists).
In May, SpaceX made news by launching a privately built craft to the international space station. Boeing has developed a low-Earth orbit space capsule. Sierra Nevada has a somewhat similar Dream Chaser spaceplane project.
Between now and the end of May 2014, the companies will continue working on their spacecraft designs, and if they reach the milestones set by NASA, crewed missions will be underway soon after.
So, NASA is still spending money, but now they are handing it to other people?
@Waltz, yes, but only to help the commercial spaceflight industry get started. In theory, once the companies are up and running, the only money NASA will give to the spaceflight industry will be the cost of the ticket for astronauts and the cost per lb of cargo that they need transported. So, any and all R&D needed by the spaceflight companies after they are up and running theoretically will be paid for by their own profits, and not by our tax dollars.
@Waltz - yes before they were taking tax payers dollars, hiring government contractors to build rockets for them, then using those rockets to launch stuff into the space.
Now what they are doing is taking tax payers dollars, investing money in private contractors to build rockets which in turn will be used to launch stuff into space.
This is a fairly significant difference. Before it was like going to a grocery store, buying the ingredients and handing it to the chef at a local restaurant who in turn makes you your dinner. And now you just go to the restaurant and chose something off the menu...that you wrote.
@racer79 - Unless NASA gets a return from that money, the story is the same. NASA just took government funds and GAVE it away to these contractors. NASA should have shares in these companies. It's the same thing we did for the bailouts of the Automotive companies. NASA should be a shareholder.
P.S. NASA has always, and will always be spending money, and that money goes to companies that either develop, design, manufacture or supply the parts they need when they build their spacecrafts... So NASA has always been "handing" their money to other people...
@beantown179- Thats like saying "Well the military just GAVE billions of dollars to Lockheed Martin and Boeing, and all they're getting in return are planes!" Its the same no matter what government entity and contractor pair you look at. Trying to say the Gov should get shares in that company because they funded the R&D is crazy. Those companies wouldn't need the R&D money if NASA hadn't requested the project be started in the first place. Its nothing like the bailouts. Its a business transaction.
@beantown179 - While what you say is true, they should have shares in the companies for their investment and it is idiotic that they don't, but as you said this is no different than any subsidized industry, except that it is an idustry that was previously only done by the government. Farming, automotive, green energy, and many other industries are also subsidized, the difference is that in the case of the subsidized spaceflight industry is that we (the taxpayers) were already paying for this industry to exist as a government agency, so why not take that money (which we were already paying) and put it into making the spaceflight industry commercially owned and operated, and in the process let NASA concentrate more on space science instead of what the best way to build a spacecraft is.
@ajohnson1986 - The difference here is that they are funding the entire start-up of most of these spaceflight companies. It would be like the government going to Henry Ford when he was first starting his company and saying, "We like what you're doing here so we're going to give you a crap-ton of money to help get you started, don't worry about paying us back though, it's just the taxpayers money!"
Wait, has Boeing even launched theirs yet? Why would they get more money if SpaceX has already docked. Stinks of Lobbying.
I think it would be great to see a lottery driven commercial space program, even if for only one seat per flight. Much funding could be saved and put elsewhere to help promote cheaper space travel for those of us that never win anything anyway.
So let me understand this. NASA was given a certain amount of tax payer monies, took their slice of the pie and is not dividing it out to other companies, I presume. Ok, in this situation, what did NASA do and why not the monies just come directly from the government and are less wasteful for administrative overhead?
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@racer79- Oh, soyou mean its like how General Dynamics got their start selling submarines to the navy? I'm sure they just sprouted up because there was a big commercial need for Subs in the early 1900's. This happens all the time. By doing this NASA still gets crafts built to their specs and they get to refocus on spacecraft built for missions beyond our orbit instead of wondering what they'll do next with the shuttles.
This is a transition to outsourcing the space program with the expectation that it will be cheaper. Who knows? It might even work.
There is money to be made from the commercialization of some aspects of space tech, and SpaceX for one seems to be working in that area as well. However, there are government objectives, such as a US owned means of transport to the ISS, that don't have any direct commercial value. Hence, the gov't pays -- one way or another.
As to why the various dollar amounts, the competition over at Popular Mechanics has more detailed information on why these vendors were chosen and why they get differing amounts.
Virgin Galactic handles the general public and nasa handles commercial business.
StarTek here we come.