NASA has made a major shift in it’s operations over the last couple of years. With the retiring of the Space Shuttle, NASA has been in dire need of a new astronaut carrier. Currently they are working with Russia to send someone to the International Space Station, but with tensions high in Ukraine, diplomatic problems have arisen.
So why commercialize space? Well NASA has been tasked with sending people deeper into space then we have ever traveled before. There are already plans in the works to send manned missions to Mars and I wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t stop there. So why set up these contracts with companies instead of relying on the government for funding? I believe they are doing it in the name of science.
Commercial industries do not have the same oversight and budget restrictions that NASA would have by solely relying on government funding. Through the use of their new commercial space program, NASA is also setting up a new industry to be born as companies vie for the chance to send cargo and eventually astronauts to the International Space Station. Also through these contracts, NASA has enabled the broadest access to micro-gravity research in the US section of the International Space Station.
Two companies have already been accepted to deliver cargo to the International Space Station. Space Exploration Technologies and Orbital Sciences Corporation. Each has uniquely designed their own delivery system to transport cargo to the station. At this point, both companies have successfully resupplied the space station and have contracts to do so again in the coming future. Orbital’s Cygnus spacecraft has a mission taking off June 17th.
Along with cargo transportation, NASA also needs companies that are willing to build craft for crew transportation if we are going to succeed in our upcoming space goals. Check back in Part 2 of this series as we look at upcoming crew transportation vehicles and the companies that will build them.
It’s exciting to see Space in the news again! Don’t you think so?