This autumn will mark the launch of the first commercial resupply flight to the International Space Station, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said yesterday, August 23, as he presented the milestones reached by companies currently working with funding from the space agency.
Speaking in front of the people gathered at the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the former home of the space shuttles, the top official described the performances and accomplishments of several companies that will be key to the United States' presence in space over the next decade.
Within 5 years, Bolden said, the first NASA astronauts may launch to the ISS aboard space capsules developed by private corporations with agency funds. This means that the capability will be available around the same time the new Space Launch System (SLS) rocket begins its first tests.
Undoubtedly, the company worthy of most praises is Hawthorne, California-based Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX), which successfully conducted its first flight to the orbital lab earlier this year. The Dragon robotic capsule completed its mission to the ISS without incident.
Later this year, in October, SpaceX will launch a new Dragon spacecraft to the ISS, the first of 12 flights to be conducted under the Commercial Resupply Services Program contract the company signed with NASA.
Bolden added that SpaceX has now officially completed the Space Act Agreement it signed with the American space agency, under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program.
“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. And we’re working to in-source the work that is currently being done elsewhere and bring it right back here to the US where it belongs,” he said.
NASA also expects to see the first test flight of the Cygnus spacecraft, currently being developed by Orbital Sciences Corporation and Thales Alenia Space. The capsule will take off on an OSC Antares rocket, a vehicle previously known as Taurus II. The flight is scheduled for this winter.
Bolden also mentioned Sierra Nevada Corp., saying that the company managed to reach its first milestone under the Commercial Crew integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative contract it recently signed with NASA.