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NASA's Lori Garver  (Source:
NASA urged Congress to provide the full $850 million, because if it is not paid now, the U.S. will be forced to pay the Russians $450 million for every year that the U.S. delays its own commercial crew vehicle starting in 2016

Lori Garver, NASA's deputy administrator, is pushing for increased funding for NASA's commercial crew vehicle development, or warns that the U.S. will be paying the Russians over the long-term instead.

The retirement of NASA's space shuttle fleet throughout 2011 has made U.S. astronauts dependent on Russia to travel to the International Space Station (ISS). The cost per seat for this rendezvous is estimated to increase to $63 million by 2015, and NASA is hoping to have commercial spaceships of its own to avoid having to pay the Russians. NASA is looking to Boeing Co., SpaceX, Blue Origin and Sierra Nevada Corp. for such spacecraft.

But these spacecraft developers will require assistance for the creation of NASA's request. NASA put aside $388 million to support such development, while the agency put forth another $800 million for spacecraft to be developed by SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corp.

But now, NASA is moving on to its next phase of its commercial crew vehicle development, and needs $850 million.

So far, Congress has put aside $312 million in the House and $500 million in the Senate.

Garver urged Congress to provide the full $850 million, because if it is not paid now, the U.S. will be forced to pay the Russians $450 million for every year that the U.S. delays its own commercial crew vehicle starting in 2016.

According to Garver, paying U.S. companies the extra money needed now will outweigh having to pay the Russians $450 million per year in 2016 and beyond, which will obviously benefit the Russian space effort instead of the U.S.

But NASA's money troubles don't end there. Even if Congress comes up with $850 million in 2012, the cost of the commercial crew vehicle development will only increase as time goes on. Garver estimates that NASA will require $6 billion "over five years."

The next step is a hearing for funding the next phase, known as CCDev 3, next Wednesday. It was scheduled by the House Science Space and Technology Committee.

Source: MSNBC

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By vanwinkle on 10/21/2011 3:27:55 PM , Rating: 2
This is exactly what they'll be doing. NASA isn't trying to develop a "whole new" capsule, this money is to continue NASA-led development of Dragon and other systems.

The $850M is for the CCDev or "Commercial Crew Development" program, which funds private development of cargo and manned launch systems by companies such as SpaceX. The existing work on SpaceX's Dragon has been funded under the first two phases of CCDev, which promoted development of concepts and prototypes, and this money will be to fund CCDev 3, which should lead to the first usable cargo capsules.

Not all of the money will go to SpaceX, though. In order to promote competition, and to ensure that a later failure by a single company doesn't set back the entire space program, NASA is concurrently funding development by multiple companies. Really, if you think about it, this is what we should've been doing all along. Twice in its history, we discovered fatal design flaws in the space shuttle that shut down our manned launch capability for 2-3 years. If we had multiple, independently-developed launch vehicles, a design flaw won't shut down our entire manned launch ability.

According to Wikipedia (see ), the development cost of the Space Shuttle program was $43B in today's dollars. This article suggests NASA needs only $6B more to finish developing not just one, but multiple manned launch vehicles. Really, that's a bargain in terms of overall development.

"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997

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