CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla – During an event at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida this past year, the media attended a press conference to discuss NASA’s commercial efforts. The usual suspects were mentioned, SpaceX, Liberty Space, Sierra Nevada, Blue Origin, Boeing as well as one unknown – Excalibur Almaz. Most of the press assembled had never heard of this company – now it appears that Excalibur Almaz Inc. or EAI is making big strides in the commercial space flight arena.
According to a NASA press release, EAI has successfully completed the requirements under the Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2). CCDev is a NASA program designed to encourage private space firms to take over delivering crew to low-Earth-orbit (LEO). The primary destination under this program is the International Space Station (ISS). To date, only one company has managed to rendezvous and be berthed to the ISS, Space Exploration Technologies or “SpaceX.”
EAI is based out of Houston, Texas and started sending NASA information regarding their crewed spacecraft concept in October of 2011. This technical data was sent to the space agency under an unfunded Space Act Agreement. Afterward EAI and NASA reviewed the information which included the spacecraft’s systems requirements and compatibility with alternative launch vehicles. NASA set more milestones in front of the company requiring EAI to explain how it plans to test the company’s spacecraft as well as how to integrate it in preparation for an actual mission. EAI met these milestones June 19.
“During this unfunded Space Act Agreement with EAI, NASA learned valuable information about how the company plans to upgrade the existing capsule with modern flight capabilities,” CCP Manager Ed Mango said. “We commend the EAI team for completing all of their established milestones during this partnership.”
EAI plans to upgrade Soviet-era TKS spacecraft and Almaz space stations for its space flight efforts. These vehicles will be modified and upgraded. Each of the spacecraft will consist of a reusable capsule, launch abort system (LAS) and an expendable service module. One change that EAI has planned is that the spacecraft will land on solid ground rather than splashing down in the ocean.
EAI has estimated that rather than building entirely new systems from the ground up; that modernizing existing systems that have already been tested has saved some $2 billion in development costs alone. EAI plans to utilize the Russian Proton rocket to launch their spacecraft. EAI’s spacecraft will launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
To date, all of NASA’s commercial partners have met their established milestones in developing commercial crew transportation capabilities.
“The interchange of technical information between the EAI team and the NASA Commercial Crew Program during the past year has been a very positive and important step toward the completion of our commercial transportation system,” said Buckner Hightower, EAI chief executive officer. “NASA’s feedback related to clarification of commercial crew transportation requirements was of significant assistance to support our efforts to provide safe, reliable and cost effective space transportation for both commercial and government customers.”
For more information about NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/commercialcrew