WASHINGTON — NASA awarded contracts worth $6.8 billion to Boeing and SpaceX on Sept. 16 to develop commercial crew transportation systems, culminating a long and sometimes controversial selection process.
Under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts, the two companies will continue development of spacecraft capable of transporting NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station as early as 2017, ending the agency’s dependence on Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
The contracts cover the development and certification of the spacecraft, including at least one test flight with both NASA and commercial crewmembers on board. The awards also fund between two and six operational flights to the ISS, each carrying four astronauts, once NASA certifies each company’s vehicle. Unlike previous phases of NASA’s commercial crew program, which used funded Space Act Agreements that provided greater flexibility, the CCtCap awards are fixed-price contracts.
“This was not an easy choice, ” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said at the Sept. 16 announcement at the Kennedy Space Center, “but this is the best choice for NASA and the nation.”
Boeing will receive $4.2 billion to build the CST-100 spacecraft, which it has been working on since the initial phases of NASA’s commercial crew program in 2010. The spacecraft will be launched on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket.
“Boeing has been part of every American human space flight program, and we’re honored that NASA has chosen us to continue that legacy, ” John Elbon, Boeing vice president and general manager for space exploration said in a company press release. “The CST-100 offers NASA the most cost-effective, safe and innovative solution to U.S.-based access to low-Earth orbit.”
SpaceX will receive $2.6 billion to build its Dragon V2 spacecraft, an upgraded version of the Dragon spacecraft currently used to transport cargo to and from the ISS. Dragon V2 will launch on the company’s Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket.
“SpaceX is deeply honored by the trust NASA has placed in us, ” SpaceX Chief Executive and chief designer Elon Musk said in a statement provided by the company. “We welcome today’s decision and the mission it advances with gratitude and seriousness of purpose.”
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