A Look At The Contenders For NASA’s Commercial Crew Program

NASA Logo NASA has posted video looks at five different vendors’ offerings for the Commercial Crew Program: SpaceX, Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), Boeing, United Launch Alliance (ULA), and ATK. They’re basically highlight reels for each of the offerings.

First up is the SpaceX Dragon, which is arguably the front runner in the CCP given it’s successful unmanned cargo mission to the ISS. The Dragon, of course, is designed to launch atop SpaceX’s own Falcon 9.

Next up is SNC’s Dream Chaser lifting body design. SNC isn’t producing a booster, the Dream Chaser is intended to launch atop a ULA Atlas V, though it could possibly be lofted by other man-rated boosters as well.

Next is the Boeing CST-100. While Boeing does have their own booster, the Delta IV (currently produced via the ULA joint venture with Lockheed Martin), there are currently no plans to man-rate it. At this time the CST-100 is planned to launch atop the Atlas V, though it may also use the Falcon 9.

Next is ULA with the Atlas V. Now, the Atlas V is an established launch platform for satellites and unmanned probes, but the CCP work will involve man-rating the launcher so that it can carry vehicles such as the Dream Chaser and CST-100 safely.

And lastly we have the ATK Liberty. Liberty looks an awful lot like the Ares I from NASA’s now-defunct Constellation program, and with good reason. ATK was developing the first stage of the Ares I, which was basically going to be a five segment evolution of the four segment Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Booster. When the Constellation program was cancelled, ATK was well along in the design and testing of their first stage, so they decided to go forward with the work on their own. As NASA was going to develop the second stage of the Ares I they needed to replace it. Rather than design something from scratch they turned to an existing design, the European Ariane 5. The second stage of Liberty is the core first stage of the Ariane 5, with modifications of course.

ATK has also decided to develop their own crew capsule, rather than using Boeing’s CST-100 or the NASA/Lockheed Martin Orion. ATK’s capsule will be based on a composite demonstrator they produced for NASA as part of the Orion project during Constellation. While it was decided not to use a composite structure for Orion, ATK has decided to use their experience building the demonstrator to produce their own capsule. So they’re looking to produce a complete end-to-end system, like SpaceX with the Falcon 9 and Dragon.

There is another participant that doesn’t seem to have a video, yet anyway, and that’s Blue Origin. They’re working on yet another capsule design, this one with a unique biconic shape, which they’re simply calling Space Vehicle. It will initially launch atop the Atlas V, but Blue Origin plans to produce their own Reusable Booster System in the future.

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