In the latest round of awards in NASA’s commercial crew program, Boeing won the largest amount of money, $460 million, versus SpaceX’s $440 million and Sierra Nevada’s $212 million. NASA officials noted at the time that the dollar values in the awards were not intended to be a ranking of the companies, but it was clear that Boeing and SpaceX were the frontrunners. However, it’s Boeing that may be worried it’s falling behind.
In Sunday’s Florida Today, former NASA astronaut Chris Ferguson, who is now the head of crew and mission operations for Boeing’s commercial crew effort, said the company is thinking about increasing its own investment to keep up with SpaceX. Boeing’s CST-100 is currently scheduled to make its first crewed test flight in late 2016, while SpaceX is planning a mid-2015 crewed test flight of its Dragon spacecraft. “We’re looking heavily into getting some additional Boeing investment to move that (late 2016) date to the left significantly, which we think we need to do to keep pace with SpaceX,” Ferguson told Florida Today.
Any additional investment would address one key weakness in Boeing’s proposal for the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) award it won. The selection statement from NASA noted that Boeing’s “proposed corporate investment during the CCiCap period does not provide significant industry financial investment and there is increased risk of having insufficient funding in the base period.” The amount of Boeing’s proposed investment was redacted in the Space Act Agreement document released by NASA.