Neil Halelamien writes "The competition for the prime contract to build the Crew Exploration Vehicle, the successor to the Space Shuttle, is ramping up. Currently, 11 different companies are creating preliminary designs for systems and vehicles which could be useful in implementing NASA's Vision for Space Exploration. By the end of the year, NASA will select two teams to independently develop and build a CEV design. The two teams will launch competing unmanned prototypes in 2008, at which point NASA will award a final winning contract. Aerospace giants Boeing and Northrop Grumman have formed one team. Another "all-star" team, announced a couple of days ago, is headed by Lockheed Martin. A third team in the running is underdog t/Space, a company with a free enterprise approach to space exploration, which includes notable figures from the commercial spaceflight arena, such as Burt Rutan and Gary Hudson. There is concern that a NASA budget boost to help pay for the exploration program could draw some opposition, as most other government programs are anticipating budget cuts."