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Speculation grows on the upcoming down-select decision by NASA of its manned commercial space program.
Next up is the announcement of the transition to the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts, to be announced later this month, or early in September, depending on political direction. Although the source selection process is obviously an internal debate, with its results embargoed until the time of the NASA announcement, it is hoped that two of the commercial crew providers will move forward with additional funding.
At the ASAP meeting, Ms. Lueders expressed “NASA’s desire to continue the partnerships even after the announcement, including with companies not selected.” That continued association may be in the form of unfunded Space Act Agreements (SAA), not unlike that which Blue Origin is currently working under, as it develops a crew capsule outside of the trio working with CCiCAP funding. “People are recognizing the value of competition and have an appreciation for shared knowledge,” added Ms. Lueders. “NASA has learned from the companies and the companies have learned from NASA. It would be a big plus to continue the relationships.”
As to which companies are likely to win through to the CCtCap phase, that is a tightly kept secret. However, over recent months, sources have noted NASA’s strong affection toward the multi-capable Dream Chaser, while SpaceX has a growing track record with its Falcon 9 and cargo-Dragon combinations via its Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) missions. [emphasis mine]
My sense in the last few months has also leaned heavily in favor of Dragon and Dream Chaser, both of whom appear to be moving forward with construction at a fast pace. Boeing meanwhile has instead made it seem that it wishes to invest as little capital in its project as possible, unless it wins the competition. While the first two companies have unveiled real hardware, Boeing continues to show us mostly mock-ups.