I finally get around to taking a vacation for one week and things get crazy! First the Curiosity touches down on Mars, and now this: the Commercial crew announcement from NASA:
Really the results of this should surprise no one. NASA has been telegraphing the direction they were planning on going during CCDev1 and CCDev2. So let’s look at the winners:
With their recent launch of the Dragon capsule to the ISS and its successful retrieval it would be surprising if they weren’t on here. SpaceX has funded most of this on their own and broken the mold when it comes to how a space launch company should behave drawing the ire of many of their competitors.
Again ,not a big surprise that the company who is up to their elbows in NASA contracts got an award. But it also helps that you’re developing an open source capsule that can fit on a variety of rockets… With the proper funding it’s a safe bet this one will make it into space.
3. Sierra Nevada Corp
The plucky upstarts no one has heard about. They’re basically finishing a NASA design, which had a lot of merit in my opinion, and creating a space plane. I love the fact that it has a long, slow decent instead of falling like rock through the atmosphere. Less heat shielding = less weight = more crew.
. . . I really want to talk about ATK not getting their Liberty rocket funded, but all I’m doing is coming up with mean jokes and I’m not sure I can be constructive; here goes. . .
NASA is staying away from anything that looks like Ares and there are still residual doubts about the overall design and its viability so it’s not a surprise NASA didn’t grant them funding.
Ok, whew! That turned too be pretty objective!
Overall, I’m pretty happy with how this whole commercial crew contract has shaken out, NASA has seeded money out in a way to both industry leaders and industry fledgling to promote an overall healthier American space industry. Will all of these designs make it to orbit? Probably not, but by taking the shotgun approach NASA is ensuring SOMETHING will make up there. Funny, I think that’s one of the first positive things I’ve had to say about NASA in a while, I could get to enjoy that!