NASA Looks To Get Into ‘Space Taxi’ Business

Published: Sep 25, 2021

Now that the shuttle program has ended for NASA, the space agency is looking to get into the ‘space taxi’ business. NASA has allocated 1.61 billion dollars to private companies that will transport U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station and low-Earth orbit. The deal is for a private company to develop a complete space flight package, one that includes rockets, spaceships, launch services, ground and mission control operations, and spacecraft recovery after landing.

“This is a significant step forward in America’s amazing story of space exploration,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement. “It’s further evidence we are committed to fully implementing our plan, as laid out in the Authorization Act, to outsource our space station transportation so NASA can focus its energy and resources on deep-space exploration.”

NASA revealed its plan for the Integrated Design Contract on Monday and would be for 2012 to 2014. “This IDC effort will bring us through the critical design phase to incorporate our human space flight safety requirements and NASA’s International Space Station mission needs,” said NASA Commercial Crew Program Manager Ed Mango. “We look forward to strong U.S. industry response.”

NASA has also been supporting four commercial companies with funding to spur the development of private space taxis as part of the agency’s second round of its Commercial Crew Development program (called CCDev2). In April, NASA split $270 million in funding between SpaceX, aerospace veteran Boeing, Sierra Nevada Corp. of Louisville, Colo., and the secretive Blue Origin of Kent, Wash.

“All four CCDev2 partners are performing very well and meeting their milestones,” said Phil McAlister, director of NASA’s Commercial Spaceflight Development. “These additional milestones were selected because they sufficiently accelerated the development of commercial crew transportation systems to justify additional NASA investment.”

Public perception of the NASA budget is very different from reality and has been the subject of controversy since the agency’s creation. A 1997 poll reported that Americans had an average estimate of 20% for NASA’s share of the federal budget. In reality, NASA’s budget has been between 0.5% and 1% from the late 1960s on. NASA budget briefly peaked at over 4% of the federal budget in the mid-1960s during the build up to the Apollo program.

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