Assessing the CCDev-2 losers

Monday afternoon 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.

3 comments to Assessing the CCDev-2 losers

  • Coastal Ron

    There may be some calculated risks that NASA is taking regarding funding for ULA, but with so little money for CCDev-2, it may be necessary.

    What I’m thinking is that part of the reason some in Congress are skeptical about commercial crew options is that there isn’t much to see yet, at least beyond the SpaceX Dragon.

    What NASA may be doing is getting the spacecraft development going fast enough that it will be clear that all that is needed for a redundant commercial crew system is to fund the safety improvements for the Atlas V, which everyone would have to admit is a pretty low risk task.

    You would even think that Shelby would listen to his ULA constituents and agree to push for the funding, since ULA (aka Boeing & Lockheed Martin) will be able to show that there is lots of commercial business waiting for Atlas V rockets to be built in Decatur Alabama. If Shelby wants it, then everyone else will likely fall in line too.

    That’s what I’m thinking.

  • An additional factor might be how long will the Emergency Detection System [not to be confused with the same acronym for the Earth Departure Stage] take to build? Less time, I bet, than the crew-carrying capsules and spaceplanes.

    Also, here’s wikipedia reminding me that LockMart got CCDEV1 money:
    “On February 2, 2010 NASA awarded[11] ULA $6.7 million in stimulus funds under the Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program. A Space Act agreement was set up to develop an Emergency Detection System (EDS) that could be used on both EELVs. An EDS monitors critical launch vehicle and spacecraft systems and issues status, warning and abort commands to the crew during their mission to low Earth orbit.”

    So how did the round1 money for EDS get used? How much much more is needed? Will work be suspended until CCDEV3?

    Paradox Olbers
    International Spaceflight Museum,
    SciLands, Second Life

  • [...] Orbital Sciences was one of the companies that submitted CCDev-2 proposals but did not get funded, raising the question of whether they will stay involved in the larger commercial crew effort. On Thursday, company officials indicated they would likely not pursue further work in this [...]

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