SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corporation have been awarded the lucrative Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract, with SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies Corp.) earning 12 missions, and Orbital winning another eight missions. The details of the award – worth up to 3.5 billion dollars – equates to Orbital winning 54 percent of the funding. PlanetSpace Inc lose out on the award.
The CRS contract deals with the resupply needs of the International Space Station (ISS) after the shuttle retires. However, with a decision date coming within the next few months on extending shuttle to 2012, there remains the possibility that there could be a deferral of a quantity of CRS related launches until 2013. The contracts themselves would not be altered, should NASA decide to extend shuttle.
The award from NASA orders eight flights valued at about $1.9 billion from Orbital and 12 flights valued at about $1.6 billion from SpaceX.
Working on the premise of shuttle retirement in 2010, NASA needed to find a solution to launching up to 150, 000 lbs of cargo to the ISS, without the hefty upmass of the shuttle.
The CRS contract – part of the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, with funding coming from NASA’s Space Act agreements – will cover at least 44, 000 pounds of that requirement, joining with the cargo fleet of vehicles such as the European ATV, Japanese HTV and Russian Progress.
With Tuesday’s award, that fleet is being joined by two new launch systems from SpaceX, based in California, and Orbital Sciences Corp, based in Dulles, Va – well known for their Pegasus launch system and Minotaur family.
OSC’s Taurus II – a new medium class launch vehicle – is scheduled to carry out a COTS demonstration mission in the fourth quarter of 2010. Interestingly, the CRS award schedules the first launch to the ISS as a resupply element in October, 2011, followed up by the second launch in June, 2012. This may be related towards aligning with the projected extension of the shuttle, or funding timelines.
NASA Commercial Crew Human Spaceflight Program for Transport to the International Space Station (ISS): SpaceX Dragon and Boeing CST-100 Contracts, Safety Reviews, History and Update Reports
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