Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

A View from Brittany Sauser

Private Spacecrafts to Carry Humans Get NASA Funding

NASA awards $269 million to the commercial industry to carry its astronauts to orbit.

  • April 22, 2011

In a much anticipated announcement, the U.S. space agency finally awarded four commercial companies funds to develop spacecraft that can carry astronauts to space. The awards are part of NASA’s commercial crew development program, initiated to utilize the private sector to reduce the gap in American human spaceflight capabilities as the space shuttles are scheduled to retire this year, and the Obama administration has canceled the agency’s Constellation program.

“The next American-flagged vehicle to carry our astronauts into space is going to be a U.S. commercial provider,” said Ed Mango, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manager, in a press release.

SpaceX engineering model of its Dragon capsule. Credit: Misha Gravenor

The four companies selected: Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), which currently has a contract to carry cargo to the International Space Station, will receive $75 million to make its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon space capsule ready for humans; Sierra Nevada Corporation will receive $80 million for its space plane design; Boeing will receive $92.3 million for a capsule design; and Blue Origin will receive $22 million to develop its capsule design.

“We’re committed to safely transporting U.S. astronauts on American-made spacecraft and ending the outsourcing of this work to foreign governments,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, in the press release. Until commercial spacecraft are ready the U.S. will have to rely on the Russians to carry astronauts to space at a cost of more than $50 million per seat. SpaceX’s vice president of astronaut safety, Ken Bowersox, told me that the company estimates its seats at $20 million each with a crew of seven, or $140 million per mission.

“These agreements are significant milestones in NASA’s plans to take advantage of American ingenuity to get to low-Earth orbit, so we can concentrate our resources on deep space exploration,” said Bolden.

Tech Obsessive?
Become an Insider to get the story behind the story — and before anyone else.

Subscribe today

Uh oh–you've read all of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium
$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from Intelligent Machines

Artificial intelligence and robots are transforming how we work and live.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Bimonthly print magazine (6 issues per year)

    Bimonthly digital/PDF edition

    Access to the magazine PDF archive—thousands of articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips

    Special interest publications

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Special discounts to select partner offerings

    Ad-free web experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning print magazine, unlimited online access plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Bimonthly print magazine (6 issues per year)

  • Insider Online Only {! insider.prices.online !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Unlimited online access including articles and video, plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

/
You've read all of your free articles this month. This is your last free article this month. You've read of free articles this month. or  for unlimited online access.