Congratulations to Boeing, SpaceX and Sierra Nevada on securing CCiCap awards
Space Adventures’ partner Boeing, secured a $460 million award as part of NASA’s CCiCap program to design and develop the next generation of U.S. human spaceflight capabilities, enabling a launch of government astronauts from U.S. soil in the next five years. Through Space Adventures, Boeing will also make flights to space available to private citizens on their CST-100 vehicle.
The other two award recipients are:
Sierra Nevada Corporation, Louisville, Colo., $212.5 million
Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), Hawthorne, Calif., $440 million
Exactly 37 years ago today, American and Russian spacecraft docked in space for the first time as part of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. The auspicious event symbolized a new era for what had long been competitive rivalry – The Space Race. Today, the American and Russian space industries are closely integrated. With the end of NASA’s space shuttle program last July, American astronauts now rely on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft for transport to the International Space Station. Likewise, all private citizens who have traveled to space through Space Adventures (an American company) did so on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
Manned spaceflight has now reached another level of competitiveness. While government space agencies deepen their collaboration, a new private space race has started. As private companies race to provide spaceflight opportunities to NASA and private citizens on orbital and suborbital vehicles, many ask who will the winner be. The winner undoubtedly will be any person who has a dream of flying to space in their lifetime. The astronauts of the Apollo Soyuz era only had one way of achieving their dream, and through a mix of incredible skill and good fortune were able to achieve it. Dreamers of today will have a wide array of choice on how to best achieve their own dream.
The voyage into space once seemed like something out of a science fiction novel. Luckily, it’s now becoming a reality, and is approaching at lightning speeds. With many private space firms evolving rapidly, and at a staggering pace, our future involving the final frontier is heading towards that of a booming industry in space tourism. By turning the idea of space travel away from primarily government based missions, and towards independent and private companies, we are enabling a broader audience to be reached and impacted.
The first achievement of its kind, in Private Spaceflight, took place when Space Adventures arranged the flight of Dennis Tito to the International Space Station in 2001.Dennis became the first private citizen to pay their own way into space, and with it coined the term Space Tourist.Dennis has since been followed by no less than six other private citizens who have completed seven private missions to space.
A next great achievement took place in May this year when SpaceX’s Dragon debuted its abilities, and became the first privately developed spacecraft ever to dock with the International Space Station, and later return to Earth. Causing a great stir, the competition in Private Spaceflight has been rising quickly, as the pressure continues to intensify.
SpaceX is joined by Boeing (partnered with Space Adventures), Sierra Nevada, and Blue Origin in the race to commercial service to Earth orbit, while Virgin Galactic, XCOR and Armadillo Aerospace (partnered with Space Adventures) are racing to take fare paying passengers on brief trips into suborbital space.All of these companies, and more, are showing great promise in the future of space tourism. By continuing to encourage friendly rivalry, we not only push ourselves closer to our goal, but also help each other as a whole in conquering our shared dreams.By continuing to progress, we can hope that someday the majority of people can participate in Space Exploration. One day, in the not too distant future, planning a trip to the Final Frontier will be looked at as casually as planning a trip to the Bahamas.
Tomorrow (May 19) will mark what is arguably one of the biggest events in space since July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. This month will be the first time in history that NASA is relying on a private company to deliver food to outer space. SpaceX will launch an unmanned craft tomorrow bringing supplies to the International Space Station and hopefully returning with millions of dollars in sensitive scientific equipment. If it is successful, it would mean 12 launches per year under a $1.6 billion dollar contract. Essentially, it means that NASA is relinquishing mission control.
SpaceX and Orbital Sciences, which launches mostly satellites now, will take the lead in NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. NASA wants private companies to man and supply the space station as it retools for missions into deeper space, like Mars and the Asteroid belt.
During a press conference in Houston in April, Elon Musk explained why his company, SpaceX, is trying to manage expectations for next week’s historic flight. “It is worth emphasizing that there is a lot that could go wrong. This is pretty tricky. The space station is zooming around the Earth at 17,000 mph, and we’ve got to launch and track and rendezvous with it. So, it’s hard. But I think we’ve got a pretty good chance.”
Although this will be only the second time that SpaceX’s Dragon craft has gone into orbit, NASA has to take that bet. Now that the space shuttle program is over and its replacement being developed by competing private companies is still a few years away, NASA is out of the human spaceflight game for quite a while. Even if everything goes right for the cargo-only Dragon spacecraft and SpaceX’s new Falcon rockets, NASA will be depending on Russian Soyuz rockets to transport people for the near future. At $63 million dollars per astronaut, NASA really needs private industry to step up pretty soon.
Russia and China are currently the only countries with manned spaceflight capability. India, Japan, and even Iran have space programs in development right now. The space shuttle program is over and political in-decision has led NASA to lose ground in the manned spaceflight arena, but US companies have been hard at work to create a space cottage industry in the private sector. SpaceX is competing against space industry titan Boeing; little known but highly successful Sierra Nevada; and Jeff Bezos backed Blue Origin for the right to carry future NASA astronauts to the ISS. And more private money is going into companies like XCOR, Armadillo Aerospace and Virgin Galactic who all aim to offer private citizens a short ride to 100km on a suborbital spaceflight.
The show certainly won’t be over if SpaceX fails to reach the ISS, but the road for government and private access to space will be a lot easier if they succeed.