San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

COVER: SpaceX chief executive officer Elon Musk, right, is delighted on the return of the Dragon spacecraft as NASA chief Charles Bolden listens on June 13. SpaceX is considering building a spaceport in south Texas for future launches. TEXAS TRIBUNE PHOTO by BOB DAEMMRICH


Two private space travel companies working to launch shuttles out of Texas are competing for the same NASA contract that is expected to be handed out in the coming weeks.

The contract, called the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability, will hire a private company to carry astronauts to space. NASA said the service is similar to “getting a taxi ride,” and four companies have spent the past few months pitching their shuttles and services to NASA.

Blue Origin, funded by Amazon CEO and billionaire Jeff Bezos, and SpaceX, funded by billionaire investor Elon Musk, are two of the four private companies competing for the project. Both are working to launch shuttles out of Texas.

The Boeing Company and the Sierra Nevada Corp. are also pursuing the contract from NASA.

In 2011, NASA retired its space shuttle fleet. The United States is currently paying Russia $70.7 million per seat for rides to the International Space Station. NASA will likely pay much less for the rides from whatever private company it chooses. In a blog post earlier this week, NASA said the contract would free up resources and energy for the space exploration agency and allow it to focus on more ambitious projects — such as a flight to Mars.

“In late August or September, the agency will select the company or companies that will build an operational space transportation system,” NASA said in its post. “NASA has not specified a set number of awards under [Commercial Crew Transportation Capability].”

Earlier this summer, SpaceX announced it was choosing Brownsville as the future home of a commercial launch facility. The state put up $15.3 million for the project. The shuttle SpaceX is pitching for NASA’s contract launches out of California.

Several hundred miles away from SpaceX’s planned Brownsville location, Bezos’ Blue Origin has it’s own developing launch site in West Texas.

BOBBY BLANCHARD reports for The Texas Tribune where this story was originally published. It is made available here through a news partnership between the Texas Tribune and the San Marcos Mercury.

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One thought on “SpaceX, Blue Origin compete for NASA contract

  1. The upcoming Commercial Crew Program down select will be one of the most important decisions to be made this decade concerning economic impacts to the US space program and space exploration by private firms in the sector known as New Space. Unfortunatly, this article is misleading concerning the truth of the matter. You indicate the following errors:
    1. Two companies out of Texas are vying for a continued contract. – SpaceX is actually a California company with engine test and development facilities in McGregor, Texas near Waco. They also fly the reusable test vehicles at this site (up to 10,000ft only). SpaceX also just received the license to built a commercial launch site in the Brownsville area of Boca Chica. SpaceX has been a competitor since the programs beginning.
    Blue origin is based in Washington state and does most test and development in the South Texas Hill Country. They are licensed to fly limited tests there to low altitudes. They will not Launch out of Texas. In fact all NASA crew flights will be mandated to fly out of Cape Kennedy. Blue Origin is really no in the running for a down select. they were not included in the last funding selection and are currently only under a Space Act agreement which gives them access to NASA expertise and some facilities such as test facilities. No funds are included.Blue Origin has received small funding contracts for research information on things like pusher style escape systems.
    2. Texas state money used to entice SpaceX to build their launch site are in the form of tax incentives and abatements and funds from the state agency designed to attack launch services and development to Texas. These agreements also require specific investments and hiring by SpaceX. They state how many local permanent jobs and at what salary level are required to get the incentives. There are also several agreements with local schools and universities for educational opportunities in aerospace.
    3. SpaceX does not and will not launch their Dragon v2 out of California. Again it will be done at Cape Kennedy. SpaceX does have a pad at Vandenberg in California, but that site is for Polar orbiting craft such as earth resources, environmental, or surveillance vehicles. Almost all others are equatorial with some possible inclination. Blue origin has stated that they might have plans for a launch site at their Texas site, but they are so secretive it is hard to tell what they have accomplished. They apparently have not yet filed for any such lisence which can take several years to complete. If smart they would negotiate to launch at the SpaceX facility since it has ocean access for delivery of larger craft than can be shipped over the road system.

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