NASA created the Commercial Crew Program to return human spaceflight capabilities to the United States by forming partnerships with private aerospace companies. The agency had not deployed astronauts to space for nearly a decade, through a partnership with SpaceX, the first astronaut deployment since 2011 took place last month. On May 30th, NASA and SpaceX performed their first crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS). A Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, with NASA Astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft. Dragon docked to the Space Station on May 31, it became the first American spacecraft developed by a private company to transport humans to the orbiting laboratory. This was possible thanks to the government and private sector working together.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the successful astronaut launch marks “a new era in human spaceflight.” The founder of SpaceX Elon Musk said he hopes it is “the first step on a journey towards civilization on Mars, of life becoming multiplanetary, a base on the moon and expanding beyond Earth."
Today Musk showed his support for NASA’s partnerships with other private aerospace companies when Bridenstine wrote via Twitter – “The cost-saving success of Commercial Crew is based on NASA establishing high-level requirements and letting private companies innovate. For the Artemis Moon base, NASA will establish a cost per ton delivered and once again let private companies innovate.” Musk responded to Bridenstine – “Wow, this is extremely important!!”
Outcome-based contracting with multiple competitors is vastly better than cost-plus (especially if sole-sourced), as the former rewards results & latter rewards waste. Outcome contracting should be applied broadly within government. The difference in results will be incredible.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 8, 2020
Artemis is the agency’s program that aims to take the first woman and next man to the lunar surface by the year 2024. NASA formed partnerships with several private American companies to achieve this ambitious mission. Some of the companies that are part of the Commercial Crew Program and/or the Artemis Program are: SpaceX, Boeing, Blue Origin, Dynetics, and Sierra Nevada Corporation.
Musk also elaborated on why he supports the agency’s approach – “Outcome-based contracting with multiple competitors is vastly better than cost-plus (especially if sole-sourced), as the former rewards results & latter rewards waste,” he stated. “Outcome contracting should be applied broadly within government. The difference in results will be incredible.”
SpaceX was selected by NASA to build a Starship Lunar Lander and also to deploy cargo aboard its Dragon XL spacecraft to a future Lunar Gateway Space Station that will orbit the moon (like the space station orbits Earth). NASA and its private partners will work together to send astronauts to the moon, build a lunar base and an orbiting station, and ultimately, build a colony on the Red Planet’s surface.
#ICYMI @NASA has selected @SpaceX as the initial partner to deliver cargo to the lunar Gateway. 🌙— NASA's Kennedy Space Center (@NASAKennedy) March 29, 2020
Gateway will be a small spaceship in orbit around the Moon that will provide access to more of the lunar surface than ever before: https://t.co/BjreDvAGNq pic.twitter.com/G87TwIZwjN
About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.