August 3 Update: NASA has now announced the official CCiCap awards:
Sierra Nevada Corp., Louisville, Colo., $212.5 million
Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), Hawthorne, Calif., $440 million
The Boeing Company, Houston, $460 million
The commercial space community has been waiting with bated breath for the announcement of the CCiCap winners, NASA’s Commercial Crew Integrated Capability program, commonly called space taxis, for ferrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station. NASA scheduled the big announcement for Friday, August 3, but the news leaked out slightly ahead of schedule. Presumed winners Boeing, SpaceX, and Sierra Nevada are playing it safe however, and are not commenting on their success.
The CCiCap is the next phase in a series that has pumped millions of NASA dollars into six key commercial partners, including Blue Origin, Excalibur Almaz, and Alliant Techsystems (ATK) aside from the lucky three. Boeing and Sierra Nevada also rely on launch partner United Launch Alliance to carry their crew capsules: the CST-100 and Dream Chaser respectively. All the companies said they would continue development even if not funded by NASA, albeit at a slower pace.
The CCiCap is intended to fund two proposals at $300-500 million and a third at half that level. The Wall Street Journal‘s Andy Pasztor indicated sources as saying Sierra Nevada was to receive partial funding, with Boeing and SpaceX splitting $1 billion for continued development of their crew capsules. NBC‘s Alan Boyle, who independently reported the same winners, was unable to confirm which of three would be fully funded.
Recent constraints aboard ISS have made NASA even more eager to get commercial space taxis up and running. The selected partners are all developing seven seater capsules, enabling an expansion of the ISS crew from six to seven. That extra person will be needed to work through all the research projects and experiments flooding the station now that it is fully operational. All three CCiCap winners have indicated that they could be flight ready in 2015-2016 if adequately funded.
Not one to trust spoilers? You won’t have long to wait for the real deal. The official results are scheduled to be released at 9AM EST with a news briefing out of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at 10 AM.
Can’t keep track of all the commercial crew players? Meet them again in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program promotion below: