Published on 28 Dec 2012

109 years ago the Wright brothers celebrated their first flight. The corporate space
travel group Space-X celebrated it with the launch of its highest test rocket to date,
the Grasshopper. The Grasshopper is a fully controllable and reusable first-stage
launch vehicle for future trips to orbit and beyond. RT's Liz Wahl explains.


Private Spaceship Builders Split $30 Million in NASA Funds
by Staff
Date: 10 December 2012 Time: 07:13 PM ET

Colorado-based Sierra Nevada got an even $10 million to continue work on its Dream Chaser space plane. Texas-based Boeing got $9.99 million for its CST-100 capsule, while SpaceX (headquartered in Hawthorne, Calif.) received $9.59 million to keep upgrading its unmanned Dragon capsule to carry crew. [Now Boarding: The Top 10 Private Spaceships]

NASA hopes at least one of these vehicles will be ready to carry astronauts to low-Earth orbit by 2017. The United States has lacked a homegrown manned capability since NASA's space shuttle fleet retired in July 2011; it currently relies on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to do the job.

"These contracts represent important progress in restoring human spaceflight capabilities to the United States," Phil McAlister, director of NASA's Commercial Spaceflight Development Division, said in a statement. "NASA and its industry partners are committed to the goal of safely and cost-effectively launching astronauts from home within the next five years."

The CPC Phase 1 contracts run from Jan. 22, 2013 through May 30, 2014, NASA officials said. During this period, the three companies will work with the Commercial Crew Program to draw up certification plans. These plans will implement NASA's safety and performance requirements across all aspects of the transportation system, from the spacecraft to the launch vehicle and ground operations.

CPC Phase 2, which is expected to begin in mid-2014, will include the final development and verifications necessary to allow manned test flights to the space station. This second contract phase will involve a full and open competition, officials said.

The newly announced $30 million is just the latest in a series of commercial crew awards granted by NASA over the last few years. In 2010, the agency granted a total of $50 million to five companies, including Boeing and Sierra Nevada. Boeing, Sierra Nevada and SpaceX split $315 million in 2011 and $1.1 billion in another round of awards announced this past August.