The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has awarded its latest round of cargo transport contracts intended to resupply the International Space Station (ISS) to three companies, one of which being a new player.
While NASA once again awarded private space firms SpaceX and Orbital ATK with commercial contracts to resupply the space station, the U.S. space agency also selected a new player, the Sierra Nevada Corporation.
The International Space Station, which the European Space Agency (ESA) has proposed replacing with a permanent moon base, has harbored humans and their experiments for 15 years.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden indicated in a statement that the the latest commercial resupply contracts are “a big deal” that will progress U.S. President Barack Obama’s “vision” of NASA working with an array of private space companies in competition with one another, driving the cost of space travel down and making it affordable.
Few would have imagined back in 2010 when President Barack Obama pledged that NASA would work ‘with a growing array of private companies competing to make getting to space easier and more affordable,’ that less than six years later we’d be able to say commercial carriers have transported 35,000 pounds of space cargo (and counting!) to the International Space Station — or that we’d be so firmly on track to return launches of American astronauts to the ISS from American soil on American commercial carriers. But that is exactly what is happening […] Today’s announcement is a big deal that will move the president’s vision further into the future.
The private space firm SpaceX, which is backed by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, recently made history when it landed an orbital rocket after using it to launch a customer’s commercial satellites into orbit. Feats such as this and Blue Orbit’s landing of a suborbital rocket show the progress private space firms have made when it comes to making space travel more affordable, as reusable rockets have the potential to dramatically reduce the cost of space travel.
The maximum potential value of the recently awarded cargo transport contracts, which cover 2016 through 2024, is $14 billion. However, the U.S. space agency will only order missions, which are to be purchased at a fix price, as needed. The total amount paid to the recipients of the resupply contracts is dynamic in the sense that it is dependent upon the number and type of missions the agency orders from companies.
After a series of setbacks, Orbital ATK managed to successfully resupply the International Space Station late last year, just in time for Christmas.