WASHINGTON-- NASA intends to spend $500 million over the next four years subsidizing thedevelopment of commercial services for delivering cargo and possibly people tothe international space station (ISS).
NASA hopesthe investment will allow one or more firms to demonstrate by 2010 -- if notsooner -- that they are capable of delivering cargo and perhaps even crewmembers to the international space station. NASA would then competitively awardflexible service contracts to the qualified firms to provide the services.
NASA kickedoff the so-called Commercial Orbital Transportation Services Demonstrationeffort Dec. 5 with the release of a draft announcement spelling out how thecompetition will be structured. A final announcement is due out Jan. 9, withproposals due a month later on Feb. 10.
NASAexpects to award one or more contracts in May.
Accordingto the 33-page draft announcement posted on NASA's Exploration Systems MissionDirectorate Web site, the space agency is looking for services that can deliverup to 7,000 kilograms of cargo and provide transport for up to three crewmembers.
NASAintends to spend $40 million on the demonstration effort in 2006, $130 millionin 2007, $200 million in 2008 and $130 million in 2009. NASA has not said whatit would be willing to pay for actual delivery services, which it intends tohandle under separate contracts.
Companiesthat have expressed interest in the demonstration effort include: ConstellationServices International of Woodland Hills, Calf.; SpaceDev of Poway, Calif.;Space Exploration Technologies of El Segundo, Calif.; and t/Space of Reston,Va.
Also takinga look at the program are more traditional NASA contractors including Houston-basedSpacehab, Chicago-based Boeing, Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin and LosAngeles-based Northrop Grumman.
Representativesfrom these firms and at least a few dozen others were meeting at NASA's JohnsonSpace Center in Houston Dec. 8 to learn more about the demonstration effort.