Monday - Sep 25, 2017

NASA pull in both Boeing and SpaceX to help

NASA pull in both Boeing and SpaceX to help

Reports that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have been heading in the direction of a return to manned space flight were given considerable credence with the news that the organisation have handed out two lucrative contracts to both Boeing and SpaceX to help build the next generation of ‘space taxis’.

The revival of America’s manned space program is being interpreted as an initiative to reduce, if not do away with completely, global reliance on Russia to transport astronauts to the International Space Station, with United States no longer having that option since the scrapping of the Space Shuttle program in July of 2011.

As part of the new initiative, Boeing will be awarded a $4.2 billion contract from the US government while newcomer to space travel SpaceX will pick up a $2.6 billion contract as part of their project.

According to Charles Bolden, the current NASA administrator, the decision to reinstate manned spaceflight stands to open a new, ambitious, and exciting chapter in the history of NASA and human space flight, with the contracts acting as a strong reflection on the US government’s desire to “be in any way independent on any other nation to get into space. ”

For the meantime, NASA is not releasing any details of the particular contracts and what they entail, only explaining that both of the companies would be required to provide a demonstration, proving that the systems they will be developing, will meet the highest standards of safety and operation, based around a manned space flight due to take place sometime in 2017.

Been granted a contract from NASA is a major feather in the cap for SpaceX, the commercial space launch company that was founded by super entrepreneur Elon Musk, who made his initial fortune with PayPal and went on to found Tesla Motors, pioneers in electronically powered vehicles.

In the past SpaceX has been called in by NASA to operate unmanned supply missions to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of a $1.3 billion contract, but has never been called on to either transport astronauts or take care of spy satellites, which till now has been handled by either Boeing or Lockheed Martin.

The US has remained without any form of independent access to the ISS since 2011 and has been entirely dependent on launches from Kazakhstan, with NASA required to pay $70 million per astronauts for rides on outdated Russian Soyuz capsules.

The previously unimaginable award of contracts to private companies throws particularly light on the pressure applied to NASA to keep costs for US space launches at a reasonable level. When active, the space shuttle program was a regular subject for criticism for its reasonably high costs, while most observers of the space program have long since pointed out that the operation involved in shuttling crews and supplies to and from the space station, which has remained in low-earth orbit since 1998, has, over time become fairly straightforward procedure, which should involve little costs.

According to initial reports Boeing’s planned CST-100 spaceship would be launched using the United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rockets, while SpaceX plans to upgrade their already operational Dragon freighter to carry astronauts.

NASA has made a public that in addition to test flights, the awards would include options for between two and six operational missions.

Dragon V2 On Stage – Photo Credit: SpaceX

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