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Boeing Co. (BA) and Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. will split as much as $6.8 billion in federal funding to help the U.S. resume manned missions and end its dependence on Russian rockets.
The contract to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station will pay a maximum of $4.2 billion to Boeing and $2.6 billion to closely held SpaceX, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said today. A third contender, Sierra Nevada Corp., was shut out.
The award caps a competition for the right to build the first U.S. manned craft since NASA retired the shuttle fleet in 2011. The agency now uses Russia’s Soyuz rockets to get people to the station, an arrangement that costs about $70 million a seat and is entangled in tensions with President Vladimir Putin over the crisis in Ukraine.
“We are one step closer to launching our astronauts from U.S. soil on American spacecraft and ending the nation’s sole reliance on Russia by 2017,” NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden said in a statement. “Turning over low-Earth orbit transportation to private industry will also allow NASA to focus on an even more ambitious mission -- sending humans to Mars.”
NASA is charting a new direction 45 years after sending humans to the moon, looking to private industry to take over human missions near Earth with reusable craft while focusing its resources on far-off missions. The space agency is preparing the first rockets to take humans beyond low-Earth orbit in four decades.
Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg
Elon Musk, chief executive officer of Space Exploration Technologies Corp., stands for... Read More
“I’m giddy today,” Bolden said at a news conference at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. “I couldn’t be happier.”
Boeing and SpaceX may each conduct as many as six missions as part of the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contract, NASA said. Payments will depend on the contractors achieving five milestones to be set by the agency before the spacecraft are certified as safe for human flight.
The award advances Musk’s ambitions for Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX, the first private company to deliver cargo to the space station, to become a force in the global aerospace industry. Musk, 43, who also leads electric-car maker Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA), has set an ultimate goal of sending astronauts to Mars.
SpaceX’s Dragon v2 capsule, which seats seven, was designed with an eye to interplanetary travel, able to land vertically anywhere on Earth “with the precision of a helicopter,” according to the company’s website, instead of parachuting into the ocean like early U.S. spacecraft in the 1960s and ’70s.
Boeing’s seven-passenger CST-100 has roots in the Apollo lunar-missions era, and its return to Earth would be cushioned by air bags and parachutes, according to the company’s website. Chicago-based Boeing was the only competitor to complete all of NASA’s design milestones on time.
The propulsion systems selected by the entrants also complicated NASA’s decision. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, which would power the Dragon V2 capsule, exploded during an Aug. 22 test flight. Musk said afterward in a Twitter post: “Rockets are tricky.”
The Atlas V boosters chosen by Boeing have a flawless record launching high-priced military payloads. The challenge: The United Launch Alliance rockets rely on Russian-made RD-180 engines whose availability is threatened by tensions between the U.S. and Russia.
originally posted by: Peter Brake
a reply to: JadeStar
Glad space x got in - doing some real good work - thanks for the post
NASA report finds Boeing seat prices are 60% higher than SpaceX
Boeing's per-seat price already seemed like it would cost more than SpaceX. The company has received a total of $4.82 billion from NASA over the lifetime of the commercial crew program, compared to $3.14 billion for SpaceX. However, for the first time the government has published a per-seat price: $90 million for Starliner and $55 million for Dragon.
We found that NASA agreed to pay an additional $287.2 million above Boeing’s fixed prices to mitigate a perceived 18-month gap in ISS flights anticipated in 2019 and to ensure the contractor continued as a second commercial crew provider, without offering similar opportunities to SpaceX," the report states.
Perhaps the most striking rationale for approving the additional funds was that Boeing may have discussed backing out of the commercial crew program (CCP). Martin writes, "According to several NASA officials, a significant consideration for paying Boeing such a premium was to ensure the contractor continued as a second crew transportation provider. CCP officials cited NASA’s guidance to maintain two US commercial crew providers to ensure redundancy in crew transportation as part of the rationale for approving the purchase of all four missions at higher prices."