Capitalism in space: NASA yesterday issued fifteen development contracts to fourteen private space companies, totaling $370 million, to help them develop a variety of new space capabilities.
The funding is spread across 15 contracts to 14 different companies, including SpaceX, Astrobotic, Lockheed Martin, United Launch Alliance and Intuitive Machines.
Nearly 70% of the money is earmarked for the management of cryogenic fluids such as liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. SpaceX, for example, will get $53 million for an in-space demonstration that will transfer 11 tons (10 metric tons) of liquid oxygen between tanks on one of its next-gen Starship vehicles.
What makes these contracts different from past NASA development contracts is fundamental. First, the design work comes from the companies, not NASA. Therefore products will be designed with the company’s needs in mind, not the government’s, and will also likely be designed faster and more efficiently.
Second, the companies will own what they build, and will be able to sell or use it however they wish. SpaceX for example wants this capability to give Starship the ability to leave Earth orbit, for its own commercial flights.
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