Saturday, August 3, 2013

NASA Pushing To Keep 'Space Taxi' Competition Going Despite Budget Uncertainties

Since 2010, when the U.S. space agency begin partnering with private companies interested in developing space taxis, and May 2014, when the current phase of the so-called Commercial Crew initiative ends, NASA expects to have spent about $1.5 billion on the program. The Obama administration is requesting $821 million for the program for the 2014 fiscal year that begins on October 1.


Congress previously halved the administration's requests to $406 million in 2012 and $498 million in 2013. The bulk of the funds now goes to two firms, Boeing Co and privately owned Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, both of which are developing seven-person capsules. NASA also is backing a winged spaceship called Dream Chaser being developed by privately owned Sierra Nevada Corp.


 "The biggest risk to the program is prematurely eliminating competition," Phil McAlister, director of commercial spaceflight development at NASA Headquarters, told an advisory committee meeting on Tuesday. "The goal of the Commercial Crew program is safe, reliable and cost-effective human space transportation to low-Earth orbit. Competition gives you a good price, but the partners know that safety and reliability are important criteria for NASA so they are battling to be the safest, to be the most reliable and to be the most cost-effective," he said.

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