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NASA Awards 3 Contracts Assisting with Obtaining Cargo Delivery Services to ISS
   2016-01-15 20:08:12    CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: Xie Cheng

Sierra Nevada Corporation engineers and technicians prepare the firm's Dream Chaser engineering test vehicle for tow tests on a taxiway at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in Palmdale, California on June 27, 2013. [Photo: CFP]

NASA has announced winners of a 3-way competition to fly cargo for the U.S. space agency to the International Space Station.

This means that NASA will maintain the capability to resupply the space station from through 2024.

CRI's Xie Cheng reports.

 

The 3 firms winning the cargo contracts are Orbital ATK, Sierra Nevada and SpaceX, which is also known as Incumbents Space Exploration Technologies.

The newly-added privately-owned Sierra Nevada is set to join SpaceX and Orbital ATK in ferrying supplies to the space station beginning in late 2019.

Each contract will guarantee a minimum of 6 cargo flight missions to the 100 billion U.S. dollar research laboratory that flies about 250 miles above the Earth.

International Space Station Chief Scientist Julie Robinson said the awarded missions are expected to advance the scientific research as they allow more scientists on board the space station and also the crew more time to conduct research.

"The technical reason we don't have seven astronauts today is that our each of our lifeboats holds three and so you can't have efficiently have a lifeboat capacity for seven crew members. So once we have commercial crew that will allow full transportation of four crew members up to the space station as well as return of four crew members in a lifeboat function and so that's what lets us bring the space station to its actual original design which was to have seven crew members. "

For his part, Kirk Shireman, the space station's program manager, highlighted some unique advantages brought by Sierra Nevada.

"Each company has the ability bring a pressurized cargo. Each company has the ability to bring up unpressurized cargo. The only ones who, in all three companies have the ability to dispose of cargo both pressurized and unpressurized, however Sierra Nevada has the ability to bring home cargo that's recoverable."

Sierra Nevada is now developing a robotic, reusable miniature space plane known as Dream Chaser, which is designed to blast off on top of a conventional rocket, then to land itself horizontally on a runway like an airplane.

The terms of the contracts were not immediately disclosed, but NASA previously said it intended to spend about 1 billion to 1.4 billion U.S. dollars on the program annually.

NASA had earlier given the red light to proposals from Boeing Company and Lockheed-Martin.

For CRI, I'm Xie Cheng.

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