A Flock Of Commercial ISS Cargo Birds
At least five companies are eagerly awaiting an expected NASA announcement June 10 of the winners in the second round of bidding for commercial cargo deliveries to the International Space Station (ISS). The U.S. space agency is spending $3.5 billion with Orbital ATK and SpaceX for resupply services under the first round and is preparing to select winners in its second Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-2) competition.
The initial commercial-cargo contractors developed their vehicles under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) Space Act agreements, with the companies paying some of the development costs. In the second round, entrants in NASA’s effort to spur commercial crew-vehicle development have offered cargo versions of their vehicles, and Lockheed Martin has proposed a new spacecraft built with existing flight technology that could expand commercial cargo delivery deeper into space beyond the ISS. Secretive Blue Origin is also at work on a vehicle that possibly could meet NASA’s needs, but it won’t say whether it entered the CRS-2 competition.