NASA announced the award of nearly $270 million to four companies for the second round of the Commercial Crew Development (CCDev-2) program. The four winners, and their awards, are:
- Blue Origin: $22 million
- Boeing: $92.3 million
- Sierra Nevada Corporation: $80 million
- SpaceX: $75 million
Those companies will work on their vehicle concepts under Space Act Agreements, maturing elements of their designs in anticipation of a full-fledged commercial crew development program. But what about the companies that didn’t win? NASA officials noted at Monday’s press conference that it received 22 proposals, selecting eight companies for additional due diligence. So what about some of the companies that didn’t make the cut?
United Launch Alliance: Perhaps the biggest surprise of the CCDev-2 announcement was that ULA didn’t receive any funding. The company was one of five first-round CCDev awardees and its launch vehicles factor significantly into the plans of other commercial crew development companies. ULA is likely to be back for future activities here, although perhaps as part of multiple teams proposing for commercial crew funding rather than a standalone competitor.
Excalibur Almaz: This company, which has plans to use Russian Almaz spacecraft for commercial space flights, was a surprise finalist for CCDev-2. Few details about what EA was proposing for CCDev-2 have been released by the company, but it’s likely the company will continue its commercial activities, although at what externally appears to be a slow pace.
Orbital Sciences: Orbital made a big splash last year with its commercial crew development plans, using a lifting body concept called Prometheus launched on an EELV, building upon interest in commercial crew that dates back to the 1990s. Failure to secure a CCDev-2 award will put the company into a tough spot: should they continue to work on this, albeit at a lower level, to stay in contention for future commercial crew awards, or instead focus on their separate commercial cargo program, the Cygnus spacecraft and Taurus 2 launcher?
ATK: Another surprise entry into CCDev-2 was ATK, which announced in February the Liberty launch vehicle comprised of a five-segment SRB developed for the Ares 1 and a modified Ariane 5 core stage for the upper stage. Without CCDev-2 funding, will ATK continue work on this project? Moreover, would it be cost-competitive for other applications against alternatives like the Falcon Heavy, announced by SpaceX earlier this month?
United Space Alliance: The Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture that operates the space shuttle had put forward a proposal to continue flying two of the orbiters, Atlantis and Endeavour, commercially. However, USA was not among the eight companies shortlisted for CCDev-2, and even company officials admitted last week that the proposal was “an extremely long shot”. That may be an understatement now.