On June 15, NASA announced it partnered with seven U.S. companies to advance space capabilities, the companies are: SpaceX, Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman, Sierra Space, ThinkOrbital, Vast Space, and Special Aerospace Services. NASA’s partnership with the companies is part of unfunded Space Act Agreements, the second Collaborations for Commercial Space Capabilities-2 initiative (CCSC-2) which is designed to advance commercial space-related efforts through collaboration between NASA “technical expertise, assessments, lessons learned, technologies, and data.” The agency’s goal is to support the commercial space sector to build a robust low Earth orbit economy.
Each company will pay for their own participation in the program. “It is great to see companies invest their own capital toward innovative commercial space capabilities, and we’ve seen how these types of partnerships benefit both the private sector and NASA,” said Phil McAlister, director of commercial spaceflight at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. “The companies can leverage NASA’s vast knowledge and experience, and the agency can be a customer for the capabilities included in the agreements in the future. Ultimately, these agreements will foster more competition for services and more providers for innovative space capabilities.”
As part of the initiative, all companies submitted proposals that NASA representatives evaluated. SpaceX proposed to use Starship as a “in-space Low Earth Orbit destination.” In other words, Starship will be able to operate like a space station in orbit where astronauts can visit to perform science research in microgravity just like they currently do at the International Space Station (ISS). “SpaceX is collaborating with NASA on an integrated low Earth orbit architecture to provide a growing portfolio of technology with near-term Dragon evolution and concurrent Starship development. This architecture includes Starship as a transportation and in-space low-Earth orbit destination element supported by Super Heavy, Dragon, and Starlink, and constituent capabilities including crew and cargo transportation, communications, and operational and ground support,” shared NASA this week.
The other companies had different proposals that are still under development: Blue Origin is collaborating with NASA to develop “integrated commercial space transportation capability.”
Northrop Grumman is helping NASA develop a “Persistent Platform to provide autonomous and robotic capabilities for commercial science research and manufacturing capabilities in low Earth orbit.”
Artist’s concept of Northrop Grumman’s Persistent Platform concept in low Earth orbit. Source: Northrop Grumman
Sierra Space will work on the development of a “low Earth orbit ecosystem, including next-generation space transportation, in-space infrastructure, and expandable and tailorable space facilities providing a human presence in low Earth orbit.”
Artist’s concept of Sierra Space’s crewed Dream Chaser spaceplane docking to the company’s LIFE habitat. | Source: Sierra Space
Special Aerospace Services is collaborating with NASA on an "in-space servicing technology, propulsion, and robotic technology called the Autonomous Maneuvering Unit (AMU) and the Astronaut Assist-AMU for commercial in-space servicing and mobility applications intended for safer assembly of commercial low Earth orbit destinations, servicing, retrieval, and inspection of in-space systems,” the agency shared in a press release.
Artist’s concept of ThinkOrbital’s ThinkPlatform in low Earth orbit. | Source: ThinkOrbital
ThinkOrbital is collaborating with NASA on the development of “ThinkPlatforms and CONTESA (Construction Technologies for Space Applications). ThinkPlatforms are self-assembling, single-launch, large-scale orbital platforms that facilitate a wide array of applications in low Earth orbit, including in-space research, manufacturing, and astronaut missions. CONTESA features welding, cutting, inspection, and additive manufacturing technologies, and aids in large-scale in-space fabrication.”
Artist’s concept of Vast’s Haven-1 commercial space station in low Earth orbit. | Source: Vast
Vast is collaborating with NASA on the development of technologies and operations required for its microgravity and artificial gravity stations. “This includes the Haven-1 commercial destination, which will provide a microgravity environment for crew, research, and in-space manufacturing, and the first crewed mission, called Vast-1, to the platform. Development activities for larger space station modules will also take place under the Space Act Agreement,” said the agency. Vast selected SpaceX to deploy the first space station module, as previously reported by TESMANIAN. Read more: World's first commercial space station & crewed mission to test artificial gravity in orbit to be launched by SpaceX for Vast
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Featured Images Source: SpaceX
About the Author
Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo
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.