NASA's Commercial Crew Partners Set for Further Tests in 2013

Image NASA and its commercial partners are rapidly working towards late-stage spacecraft development tests in 2013, according to an update delivered by the various companies late last week. Calling 2012 "an unbelieveable year for the commercial crew program", NASA commercial crew manager Ed Mango pointed out that the program is more than meeting expectations.
The agency is undertaking the program as a facilitator, rather than a leader, officials pointed out in a press conference held on January 9. NASA provides money to the commercial contractors as well as billable use of its facilities. Meanwhile, the commercial crew candidates must meet certain design and safety milestones throughout the development process to ensure they are on track to receive the funding they are promised.

NASA hopes that the companies will ferry astronauts into Earth orbit by 2017 or 2018, which will at last give the United States full human launch capability again after the shuttle retired in 2011.

So far, the agency has poured several hundred million dollars into the commerical crew program, including further awards totalling over $1.1 billion last August under the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) phase of the program. The beneficiaries of the CCiCap funding - Boeing, SpaceX and Sierra Nevada Corporation - provided updates at the press conference. Blue Origin also took part, although they did not seek funds under CCiCap they had received funding from NASA under the earlier phases of the commercial crew program.

Blue Origin, founded by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos, is developing a vertical takeoff and landing system using the test spacecraft New Shepard. Pad escape tests in October proceeded smoothly, among other milestones. "This (NASA) program is providing lessons learned and practice so that we can develop a low-cost, safe and affordable orbital flight system," said Blue Origin president Rob Meyerson. (By Elizabeth Howell,
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07