Yesterday the Obama administration announced it’s 2010 budget for NASA, which scraps plans to return to the moon by 2020 and focuses on using commercial companies to ferry astronauts into orbit. NASA has wasted no time in pushing ahead with this plan, awarding $50 million to five different companies for the development of concepts and technology for human spaceflight.
The money was awarded through an open competition for funds from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009. Blue Origin, based in Kent, WA, will receive $3.7 million; the Boeing Company of Houston will receive $18 million; Paragon Space Development Corporation of Tucson, AZ, will receive $1.4 million; Sierra Nevada Corporation, based in Louisville, CO, will receive $20 million; and United Launch Alliance of Centennial, CO, will received $6.7 million.
The awards are the first step in NASA’s investment in commercial human spaceflight. In 2008 the agency awarded Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) a $1.6 billion contract to provide a launch vehicle capable of reaching the space station. The contract was for a cargo-carrying spacecraft, with an option of developing a version for crew.
The White House’s initial budget proposal has allocated $500 million in 2011 financial year for commercial crew concepts, and $312 million for commercial cargo development. In the 2012 financial year commercial crew expenditure is expected to increase to $1.4 billion.