NASA ISS cargo contracts delayed


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The competition heats up: NASA has delayed, for the second time, when it will award its next round of cargo contracts to ISS, pushing the date back from June to September.

Though agency officials said they could not reveal why they had delayed the contract awards, they did say it was to gather more information. My guess is that the agency wants to see how SpaceX’s launch abort tests turn out this year before it makes a decision. If successful, they will then have the option of dropping SpaceX’s as a cargo carrier and pick someone else, possibly Dream Chaser, to provide up and down service to ISS. That way, they would increase the number of vehicles capable of bringing people and supplies up to ISS.

Delaying the award decision until September gives them time to evaluate the abort tests results, as well as give them a cushion in case those tests get delayed somewhat.

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6 comments

  • Edward

    Robert commented: “That way, they would increase the number of vehicles capable of bringing people and supplies up to ISS.”

    NASA would have one or two more vehicles to carry cargo, plus one or two backups. If the Bigelow habitat modules work out, then there would be three or four cargo ships to service them, as well.

    I favor Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser variant as well as Lockheed Martin’s reusable tug (transfer vehicle) scheme, not just for the reason above, but I think they both move us forward in improved designs and concepts. Both designs provide reusable hardware, which is a key concept in reducing the cost of access to space.

  • wodun

    “If the Bigelow habitat modules work out, then there would be three or four cargo ships to service them, as well.”

    Don’t think their intended purpose is to deliver cargo? I can think of some possibilities but please elaborate :)

  • Edward

    Think of the Bigelow modules as smaller versions of the ISS. People can use some for experiments and others for orbital vacations. I am sure that with 7 billion people on the planet, other purposes will be thought up, too (e.g. some countries could use them as part of a “poor country’s” space program). Just as the ISS needs cargo deliveries, these smaller space stations would also need occasional cargo runs.

    I believe that the 2020s will see a rapid increase in the manned use of space and space stations.

  • pzatchok

    Since NASA does not want to use the Bigalow modules for habitation yet why not use themas a mass dump.

    Instead of throwing out all the human solid waste why not just fill up the Bigalow module with it and then seal it up until a time when we need solids for growing things.
    No use spending money sending it back down just to send more back up in a few years.
    How much would it cost to send up 10 tons of dirt when we finally need it?

    Once filled just dock it with other Bigalow modules floating close by to the ISS. Use that tug they are thinking of sending up to move them about.

    All liquids should be recycled and reused on the ISS.

    Everything that goes up should stay up until it can be repaired recycled and or reused.

  • Brian

    Bob I don’t think Spacex would be very happy with that line of thinking. I’m sure they fully expect to have both cargo and crew contracts.

  • SpaceX might not be happy not getting the cargo contract, but from NASA’s perspective, it makes sense not to pick them (assuming their manned tests fly successfully). If NASA, and the U.S., can have four different spacecraft and companies providing manned ferry and cargo freighter service to ISS, that is far better for NASA and the U.S., than having only three.

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