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NASA Sets Contract Announcement For Commercial Spacecraft Flights To International Space Station

By | December 22, 2008

      NASA tomorrow will make a live-broadcast announcement on a contract for commercial private space flights that would use a crewed spacecraft on transport missions to and from the International Space Station.

      The announcement is set for 4 p.m. ET tomorrow. NASA had issued a request for proposals April 14.

      The United States currently has a hefty logistics capability in its fleet of space shuttles that can haul huge items to the space station, and also transport astronauts to the station. But the shuttles, by order of President Bush, will stop flying by October 2010. After that, other means of transport must be obtained.

      While the European Space Agency has a robotic supply vehicle, and the Russians have Proton cargo and Soyuz crewed vehicles, NASA is interested in fostering a commercial space industry including private spaceships that could conduct missions to the station. NASA also needs to obtain crew transportation services from 2010 to 2015.

      NASA has offered commercial orbital transportation services seed money to two firms, Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, and to Orbital Sciences Corp. [ORB]. They are expected to develop cargo hauling capabilities first, and crewed capabilities second.

      The commercial resupply services procurement will include requirements for launch services, orbital rendezvous and berthing with a crewed spacecraft, delivery of internal and/or external cargo, unberthing and deorbit, and disposal or return of internal cargo.

      The teleconference with Bill Gersenmaier, NASA associate administrator for space operations, at 4 p.m. ET tomorrow will be broadcast live at on the Web.

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