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NASA Picks 5 Firms To Work On LEO Tech 116

Posted by timothy
from the quasi-private-at-best dept.
Gary W. Longsine writes "Five contracts have been awarded by NASA today, to firms exploring different aspects of the effort to develop a private launch industry for people to low earth orbit. Today's winners include: Sierra Nevada Corp (aka 'SpaceDev') for the Dream Chaser; Boeing in cooperation with Bigelow on a capsule design; United Launch Alliance (Boeing and Lockheed Martin) to explore safety issues related to upgrading Atlas and Delta rockets to human flight safety standards; Blue Origin to build a launch escape system; and Paragon Space Development Corp for 'air vitalization' (aka life support). Will the forecast $6 Billion allocation over five years be enough to inspire private industry to develop not one, but two human rated launch systems (a capsule, and the lifting body Dream Chaser)? NASA clearly wants competition in the private market, so they seek more than one vendor."
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NASA Picks 5 Firms To Work On LEO Tech

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  • by assemblerex (1275164) * on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @03:41PM (#31013858)
    Billion dollar companies will buy up these small entities and we'll be back to $2billion launches in no time...
  • by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @04:04PM (#31014132)

    You mean Falcon 1. Right now Space X [wikipedia.org] is working on the Falcon 9 for launch this year. They are working with much smaller $ amounts than these 5 companies, but they're not working on human launches either.

    I agree that it would be need to see a man-rated version of the F9, but I think NASA wants to focus on rockets that are available now rather than rockets that aren't yet available.

  • A new capsule... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Cochonou (576531) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @04:05PM (#31014138) Homepage
    There are parts of this plan that really sound fishy to me. But of course, we do not have yet the full information about it.
    Charles Boden says they are taking the "flexible path" drafted in the Augustine Report [nasa.gov] and not by any stretch bailing out of human spaceflight. Yet, they are cancelling the whole Constellation Project, consisting in the launchers (Ares I and V) and the capsule (Orion), while the Augustine panel had specifically kept the Orion capsule in all the flexible path options. Actually, they thought any redesign of the capsule would cause an unwanted setback of more than a year.
    So now, we are redesigning again a capsule from scratch. I do not see how this implementation of the "flexible path" approach is going to give us any time (or money) benefits regarding the capsule. Are we supposed to put the astronauts directly on the top of the rockets ?
  • by khallow (566160) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @04:19PM (#31014274)

    Billion dollar companies will buy up these small entities and we'll be back to $2billion launches in no time...

    And the people that created a new launch business are amply rewarded. Existence of an exit strategy, even if it's just getting bought out by a big player trying to maintain an oligopoly, is a necessary precondition for venture capital funding.

  • by bradley13 (1118935) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @04:25PM (#31014344) Homepage

    Study this, investigate that, make sure there is a contractor in every important Congressional district. Sick.

    They ought to just pay for performance: We need X tons put into orbit no later than date Y, and we'll pay you this much to do it. Pick a payment that is half of what they are going to spend the "big government" way, and the contractors will still make a whopping profit.

    Of course, that wouldn't put pork in the right pockets...

  • by camperdave (969942) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @04:36PM (#31014468) Journal
    Look at it this way: The army doesn't design tanks. They just outline what they want, and then some company says "We can make that tank. It will cost $X". Similarly, NASA should no longer be designing rockets, capsules, etc. They should just be outlining what they want and having companies bidding on it. NASA was getting too deep into the design process, and it was bogging them down.
  • by Alinabi (464689) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @05:14PM (#31014914)
    Only in this case the funding does not come from venture capitalists, but rather from taxpayers who will see no benefit once we are back to $2 billion launches, so your point is moot.

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