NASA Celebrates Success of Commercial Space Programs
NASA chief Charles Bolden took pride in the success of its commercial space programs. Their projects are progressing with the help of its partners journal SpaceX and journal Orbital Sciences Corp.
"We just finished taking the Olympic torch up to space last week, and getting it back down. So in a way, this is passing another torch," said Bolden in a statement.
The $700 billion worth, seven-year commercialization project, Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS), had successfully launched systems that will replace the existing, now defunct shuttle in space and also transport supplies to the International Space Station (ISS).
According to the space agency, they are taking advantage of the experiences gained from the COTS in order to improve their Commercial Crew Program founded to commercialize spacecrafts that will soon allow passengers to travel in space. So far, the space agency had allocated over a billion funds for new spacecraft models created by SpaceX, Sierra Nevada and Boeing Co. NASA will be issuing its requirements for the last stages of the prototypes by November 19.
NASA Commercial Crew and Cargo Program head Alan Lindenmoyer said that the success of COTS was largely due to commercial competition and partial development costs shouldered by the agency. This was possible because they had taken advantage of cargo services that are not exclusively used for NASA space missions.
SpaceX and Orbital Sciences had delivering supplies to the ISS under NASA contracts approximating $3.5 billion in total. To date, SpaceX had already launched resupply missions in May last year via its Dragon cargo capsule and Falcon 9 rocket. Another Dragon launch is scheduled February 2014. Orbital Sciences, on the other hand, commenced its exhibition launch with its Cygnus capsule and Antares rocket September this year.
The commercialization project only shells out for the investments once the companies were able to reach the agreed developmental targets. In the case of Orbital Sciences, as soon as it completed the last COTS milestone, NASA paid out the last amount to cover the $288 budget.
Lindenmoyer said, "This is American ingenuity at its best, resulting in safe, reliable and cost-effective space transportation.” He also added that the COTS program will soon include commercialization of the moon.
"There were great responses — systems to go back and explore the moon, communication systems, propellant systems, launch systems. There's all kinds of potential out there where the model can be used. And I think it can be used in a complementary manner: NASA develops the high-technology systems, and then the systems that are less complex can be turned over to industry," explained Lindenmoyer.