CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla – NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden stopped by NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida in an effort to highlight the efforts of the space agency’s commercial partners. Bolden visited KSC Thursday Aug. 23 to detail efforts between the space agency and its retinue of commercial partners.
Bolden highlighted milestones reached by NASA’s industry partners including Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), The Boeing Company and United Launch Alliance ULA). These partners are working to launch the first contracted commercial cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS) and attempts to transport astronauts to the ISS within the next five years.
While at Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) Bolden stated that SpaceX has not only completed its Space Act Agreement under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services or COTS program and was set to launch the first mission under the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) program this fall.
“We’re working to open a new frontier for commercial opportunities in space and create job opportunities right here in Florida and across the United States,” Bolden said. “And we’re working to in-source the work that is currently being done elsewhere and bring it right back here to the U.S. where it belongs.”
NASA has worked to pass off the responsibility of transporting cargo and astronauts to private space firms as the space agency focuses on exploring beyond low-Earth-orbit for the first time in four decades.
SpaceX had the two remaining missions under the COTS program combined into a single mission, which the company used its Falcon 9 rocket to launch the firm’s Dragon spacecraft to the ISS – marking the first time that a private firm launched a spacecraft to the space station.
During this mission, Dragon not only rendezvoused with the ISS but was captured by the station’s robotic arm and berthed to the Earth-facing side of the Harmony module. After the crew had off-loaded the supplies onboard the Dragon they refilled it with completed experiments.
The media also visited the following locations as part of NASA’s efforts to highlight the progress made by its commercial partners:
- At Orbiter Processing Facility 3 (OPF-3), currently the home of Boeing’s CST-100, the media were addressed by Boeing’s Vice President and General Manager for Space Exploration John Elbon. He detailed Boeing’s progress in getting the CST-100 space capsule ready for flight.
- At Space Launch Complex-41, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V sat poised to launch NASA’s Radiation Belt Storm Probes mission. Bolden and the RBSP Deputy Project Scientist, Nicky Fox, discussed the upcoming mission to study the Van Allen radiation belts.
Bolden mentioned that Sierra Nevada Corporation recently announced that it has conducted its first milestone under NASA’s Commercial Crew integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative. This first step, a program implementation plan review, is viewed as a crucial first step toward having the company’s Dream Chaser space plane become a viable crew transportation system.
CCiCap is, essentially, the third phase of NASA’s Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program which has been developed so that NASA can focus on points beyond the orbit of Earth.
To do this, NASA is developing the Orion spacecraft to carry crews to orbit. To power this new spacecraft to orbit the agency is developing a new heavy-lift booster dubbed the Space Launch System or SLS.