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A Look at NASA’s New CCDev (Commercial Crew Development) Funding Awards February 11, 2010

Posted by Nick Azer in Bigelow Aerospace, Blue Origin, Boeing, Commercial Crew Development [CCDev], Sierra Nevada Corp. and SpaceDev, Uncategorized, United Launch Alliance.

In the wake of all the hububb over NASA’s new direction, an important step in that direction landed a little quietly—the awarding of $50 million in stimulus funds to five commercial firms.

“The president has asked NASA to partner with the aerospace industry in a fundamentally new way, making commercially provided services the primary mode of astronaut transportation to the International Space Station. We are pleased to be able to quickly move forward to advance this exciting plan for NASA.” -NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, NASA Press Release

The press release calls this a ‘first step’ in the new direction for NASA. Technically speaking, though, this actually builds off of a step taken just days into the Obama administration—the big Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) contracts given to SpaceX and Orbital for the resupply of the ISS (previously done by the Space Shuttle).

So now, in addition to SpaceX and Orbital, NASA has doled out funds to additional companies for develop solutions for crew transportation to low-earth orbit (and thereby, help ‘catalyze‘ the private space industry—and by association. the economy). Here’s a look at the five winners, and the projects they’re working on (in order of totals awarded):

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SpaceDev)

The Sierra Nevada Corporation, which acquired private space company SpaceDev in 2008, was awarded $20 million of the $50 million total. While the NASA release doesn’t specify projects, this appears to be towards the development of SpaceDev’s lifting-body spaceplane called the Dream Chaser (pictured above).

The Dream Chaser is based off the the old NASA HL-20 concept, designed as an affordable backup plan to the Shuttle. Here’s a quick Youtube video (with some hip music :D ) that gives an idea:


A longtime stalwart of space efforts, Boeing received $18 million towards the development of an unspecified crew module concept. Alongside Boeing with this CCDev project is Bigelow Aerospace, an established leader in the development of commercial crewed space stations:

“We’re excited about this program and the Boeing partnership in general. Boeing brings with it unparalleled experience and expertise in human spaceflight systems, which will be combined with Bigelow Aerospace’s entrepreneurial spirit and cost-conscious practices.” -Robert T. Bigelow, president and founder of Bigelow Aerospace, Boeing press release

The United Launch Alliance

Already operators of the oft-used Atlas V and Delta IV rockets, this partnership between Boeing and Lockheed was awarded $6.7 million to develop an Emergency Detection System to help make the Atlas and Delta rockets become human-rated launch vehicles.

Blue Origin

Blue Origin, the slightly mysterious private space firm started by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, received $3.7 million, apparently (as Jeff Foust of the NewSpace Journal and Space Politics tweeted) for the development of a “concept for bi-conic crew vehicle that could be launched on Atlas 5“, the Atlas V of course being the United Space Alliance’s vehicle.

Blue Origin’s known craft under development is the New Shepard, a vertical take-off and landing craft inspired by the old NASA DC-X concept. With a very 1950’s sci-fi style, it simply launches straight up (to orbit) and reenters the same way, all the way down to landing on struts. A video of their Goddard prototype’s 2006 test flight gives an idea:

Paragon Space Development Corporation

And last, but not least, Paragon, a company that develops life support and thermal control systems, was awarded $1.7 million towards a “revitalization system for use in crewed spacecraft“. Here’s a neat NASA video about Paragon, their background, and the work they do:

With these major selections—and NASA’s new direction being pointed directly at them—these companies will become, alongside other partners like SpaceX and Orbital, leaders in American space going forward. Expect to be hearing about those featured technologies a lot, particularly as the competition heats up for a preferred method :) It’s quite a wide variety of designs, too, so it should be fun to see the pros and cons of each play out.



1. Notes from The Future – Feb. 13, 2010 « Interested in The Future - February 13, 2010

[…] built spacecraft during a morning briefing at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Luna C/I has a breakdown of each company and their work. The privatization of space is very intriguing to me because it kind of goes back to the old […]

2. gaetano marano - April 10, 2010

It’s NOT a Blue Origin idea!


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