Private Space Taxis: Spaceflight Leaders Hail NASA's Funding Picks

An artistic rendition of the Dream Chaser vehicle launching into space.
An artistic rendition of the Dream Chaser vehicle launching into space. (Image credit: Sierra Nevada)

NASA announced today (Aug. 3) that three companies have won contracts under the third phase of a project to develop private space taxis capable of carrying astronauts to Earth orbit.

Those companies — Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX), Boeing, and Sierra Nevada Corp. — will share $1.1 billion in funding under NASA's Commercial Crew integrated Capability program (CCiCap) program.

In response to the news, leaders throughout the private space industry and Congress have spoken out about this public-private partnership:

Elliot Pulham, CEO of the Space Foundation, a non-profit group dedicated to space exploration

The Space Foundation is pleased that the U.S. is moving to the next phase in regaining human spaceflight capability. This is an absolutely critical component to rebuilding a robust space program and we're excited to see what happens next.

We congratulate Sierra Nevada Corporation, SpaceX and The Boeing Company -- all of which are Space Foundation partners -- and we look forward to what we hope will be a reinvigorated space environment.

Michael Lopez-Alegria, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, a private space industry group

Our congratulations to the winners of this round of competition. The Commercial Crew Program is a public-private partnership that provides big benefits for government, industry and the American people. With these awards, NASA gets an important service for significantly lower cost, the commercial spaceflight sector gets an anchor tenant, and Americans get our astronauts flying to space on American vehicles again. The last round of awards has been a big success, and I'm confident that the next two years will see great accomplishments as companies achieve the milestones announced today.

Eric Anderson, chairman of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation

These awards are the next step in bringing human spaceflight back to America. Through this competitive program, American companies will provide safe, reliable and routine flights to low-Earth orbit, allowing NASA to concentrate on deep space exploration.

It is important to keep in mind that the commercial space industry is much larger than just one NASA program. I anticipate that companies who did not compete or receive an award in this round will continue to pursue other markets for their services.

Patricia Hynes, director of the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium 

From Capitol Hill to China, the space industry will be looking to this new group of leaders to deliver on the promise of increased access to space for mankind. We congratulate the winners. All Americans are winners today.

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.)

Today's announcement shows that NASA has put together a thoughtful selection of companies and capabilities that we anticipate will culminate in a domestic capability to launch astronauts to the International Space Station.

This is consistent with the approach several of us in the Congress urged NASA to take, to ensure that the limited funds available are spent on developments that have a strong probability of success.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)

These three companies are paving the way to ensure a safe, reliable, and cost-effective commercial crew transportation system so our astronauts can return to ISS on domestic launch vehicles as soon as possible. Through public-private partnerships, our country will restore its human spaceflight capability. With commercial providers and competition, NASA will soon be able to purchase safe, domestic, low-cost crew transportation.

I applaud NASA for their continued dedication to the commercial process which has already yielded great dividends for cargo transportation.  By pursuing their plan for multiple industry partners to meet the ISS crew rotation and emergency return needs, NASA is unleashing the power of market competition to reduce reliance on Russia while fostering American innovation, economic growth, and job creation.  With competing designs, NASA and these companies will assure the fastest and safest domestic space transportation for our nation’s astronauts.

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