NASA begins funding commercial space taxis
Five firms win contracts to build escape systems, environmental controls, crew modules
Computerworld - As part of NASA's new roadmap, the space agency today announced that it has awarded a collective $50 million in contracts to aerospace companies to help design and build what the agency calls space taxis.
"The work has already started and we advance it one more step today," said NASA administrator Charles Bolden, speaking to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. today. "We ask [the the partners] for their boldest ideas and concepts to make a commercial crew a reality. They've given us some great proposals. It's by no means an end. It's a fantastic start."
President Barack Obama's proposed 2011 budget, released yesterday, is changing the direction that the space agency has been headed in over the past several years. The White House is scrapping NASA's Constellation project that would have returned humans to the moon.
Instead, the budget plan calls for NASA to sign contracts with commercial businesses to create what are essentially space taxis designed ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station, and eventually, further into space.
The contracts, funded with about $50 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 monies, were awarded to Blue Origin LLC in Kent, Wash., The St. Louis-based Boeing Co. Paragon Space Development Corp. in Tucson, Ariz., Sierra Nevada Corp. in Louisville, Colo. and United Launch Alliance in Centennial, Colo.
Blue Origin was awarded a contract worth $3.7 million to partially fund the creation of a launch escape system and a crew module. Paragon won a $1.4 million pact to help NASA build an environmental control and air system and United Launch Alliance was awarded $6.7 million to build an emergency detection system to monitor vehicle health. Sierra Nevada Corporation will receive $20 million and The Boeing Co. $18 million for related projects, NASA said.
The funding was meted out in an open bidding process, according to NASA.
Bolden today moved to quell criticism of the White House plan to use contractors to build and own spacecraft that would carry U.S. and international astronauts.
"I will make it my job every day to make sure that everything is done efficiently and safely," he said. "Some have said this means putting astronauts in the care of untested providers. Not true. Remember that we already depend on commercial companies to launch weather, imaging and navigation satellites."
Bolden added that the new strategy leverages private investment, which reduces the burden on taxpayers, while lessening NASA's dependence on key partner Russia to ferry astronauts after NASA's space shuttle fleet is retired later this year.
"We are still the nation in the forefront [of space research and exploration]. We are still the nation that everyone looks to and with whom everyone wants to partner," he said. "I'm not trying to fool anybody that this is going to be easy. But I'm excited about the opportunity. This is not a NASA thing. This is a 'we thing' -- with NASA. commercial industry and the nation. These are exciting times."
Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed .
Read more about Government IT in Computerworld's Government IT Topic Center.
- 15 Non-Certified IT Skills Growing in Demand
- How 19 Tech Titans Target Healthcare
- Twitter Suffering From Growing Pains (and Facebook Comparisons)
- Agile Comes to Data Integration
- Slideshow: 7 security mistakes people make with their mobile device
- iOS vs. Android: Which is more secure?
- 11 sure signs you've been hacked
If you use ‘password,’ one the worst passwords, as your password, fail to keep antivirus protection updated and don’t bother to deploy security patches to close critical vulnerabilities, then maybe you should consider working for the cybersecurity-clueless federal government; you’d fit right in, according to Senator Tom Coburn's cybersecurity and critical infrastructure report.
- IT Certification Study Tips
- Register for this Computerworld Insider Study Tip guide and gain access to hundreds of premium content articles, cheat sheets, product reviews and more.
- Changing the Way Government Works: Four Technology Trends that Drive Down Costs and Increase Productivity
- This paper discusses four technology-based approaches to improving processes and increasing
productivity while driving down department and agency costs.
- Pay-as-you-Grow Data Protection: IBM Tivoli's Full-featured Data Protection Suite for Small to Medium Businesses
- IBM Tivoli Storage Manager Suite for Unified Recovery gives small and medium businesses the opportunity to start out with only the individual solutions...
- Streamline Data Protection with IBM Tivoli Storage Manager Operations Center
- IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) has been an industry-standard data protection solution for two decades. But, where most competitors focus exclusively on Backup...
- Simplify and Consolidate Data Protection for Better Business Results
- Learn about IBM® Tivoli® Storage Manager Operations Center, which provides advanced visualization, built-in analytics and integrated workflow automation features that leapfrog traditional backup...
- HP HAVEn: See the big picture in Big Data
- HP HAVEn is the industry's first comprehensive, scalable, open, and secure platform for Big Data. Enterprises are drowning in a sea of data... All Government IT White Papers
- Meg Whitman presents Unlocking IT with Big Data During this Web Event you will hear Meg Whitman, President and CEO, HP discuss HAVEn - the #1 Big Data platform, as well...
- The New Way to Work Knowledge Vault This Knowledge Vault focuses on how, in today's increasingly virtual world, it's more important than ever to engage deeply with employees, suppliers, partners,...
- Getting Ready for BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10.2 Find out how BlackBerry® Enterprise Service 10 helps organizations address the full spectrum of EMM challenges, while balancing the needs of both the...
- Containerization Options: How to Choose the Best DLP Solution for Your Organization This webcast outlines a framework for making the right choice when it comes to containerization approaches, along with the pros and cons of...
- Mobile Apps and Devices Slash Customer Cycle Time Consolidated Engineering Laboratories' field employees used to collect data on triplicate forms that were sometimes hard to read and difficult to manage. After...
- All Government IT Webcasts