NASA to Announce Funding for Private Spaceship Builders Today

This artist's illustration depicts a Boeing CST-100 spacecraft approaching a private inflatable space station complex designed by Bigelow Aerospace.
This artist's illustration depicts a Boeing CST-100 spacecraft approaching a private inflatable space station complex designed by Bigelow Aerospace. (Image credit: Boeing)

NASA today (April 18) will announce the private companies who will receive funding awards to help develop technologies that will support the agency's commercial spaceship needs.

The awards are part of the second round of NASA's Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program, which is aimed at supporting growth within U.S. industry to develop and demonstrate human spaceflight capabilities. NASA is expected to announce at least four recipients for the nearly $300 million round two awards, according to Space News.

The first round of the agency's CCDev initiatives began in 2009, and the second round of selected proposals will be used to advance the commercial crew space transportation system concepts and mature the design and development of launch vehicles and spacecraft, NASA officials said in a statement. [Vote Now! The Best Spaceships of All Time]

In February, NASA contacted at least eight private companies, including Alliant Techsystems (ATK), Blue Origin, Boeing, Excalibur Almaz, Orbital Sciences Corp., Sierra Nevada Corp., Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and United Launch Alliance (ULA) to discuss their proposals for the CCDev2 awards. [Infographic: Spaceships of the World]

After NASA's space shuttle program ends later this year, the agency will rely on commercial providers to carry cargo and eventually humans to the International Space Station. SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corp. already have contracts with NASA to ferry supplies to the space station following the retirement of the veteran orbiters.

NASA will discuss its commercial space company picks today during media briefing at 4:30 p.m. EDT (2030 GMT). The teleconference will feature the following representatives:

  • Philip McAlister, acting director of commercial spaceflight development at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
  • Edward Mango, program manager of the commercial crew program at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
  • Andrew Hunter, deputy chief financial officer at NASA Headquarters.

Today's announcement comes on the heels of last week's political compromise that resulted in a new federal spending bill. On April 14, Congress passed a spending measure for the last five months of the year 2011.

The bill left NASA with about $18.5 billion, putting its budget roughly $240 million below its 2010 funding level.

You can follow Staff Writer Denise Chow on Twitter @denisechow. Follow for the latest in space science and exploration news on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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Denise Chow
NBC News science writer

Denise Chow is a former staff writer who then worked as assistant managing editor at Live Science before moving to NBC News as a science reporter, where she focuses on general science and climate change. She spent two years with, writing about rocket launches and covering NASA's final three space shuttle missions, before joining the Live Science team in 2013. A Canadian transplant, Denise has a bachelor's degree from the University of Toronto, and a master's degree in journalism from New York University. At NBC News, Denise covers general science and climate change.