Through the public-private partnerships enabled by the Next Space Technologies for exploration Partnerships-2 (NextSTEP-2) Broad Agency Announcement, Appendix A, NASA and industry partners will expand commercial development of space in low-Earth orbit while also improving deep space exploration capabilities to support more extensive human spaceflight missions.
"NASA is on an ambitious expansion of human spaceflight, including the Journey to Mars, and we're utilizing the innovation, skill and knowledge of the both the government and private sectors," said Jason Crusan, director of NASA's Advanced Exploration Systems, in a statement.
The next human exploration capabilities needed beyond the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion capsule are deep space, long duration habitation and in-space propulsion.
The selected companies are Bigelow Aerospace of Las Vegas, Boeing of Pasadena, Texas, Lockheed Martin of Denver, Orbital ATK of Dulles, Virginia, Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Space Systems of Louisville, Colorado, NanoRacks of Webster, Texas.
Habitation systems provide a safe place for humans to live as we move beyond Earth on our Journey to Mars.
The six partners will have up to approximately 24 months to develop ground prototypes and/or conduct concept studies for deep space habitats. The contract award amounts are dependent on contract negotiations, and NASA has estimated the combined total of all the awards, covering work in 2016 and 2017, will be approximately $65 million, with additional efforts and funding continuing into 2018. Selected partners are required to contribute at least 30 percent of the cost of the overall proposed effort.
NASA made the first NextSTEP selections in 2015, which include deep space habitation concept studies that also advance low-Earth orbit commercial capabilities. Four companies were selected under that solicitation: Bigelow Aerospace LLC, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Orbital ATK.
This round of NextSTEP selections will catalyse commercial investment in low-Earth orbit and guide to an operational deep space habitation potentiality in the area of space near the moon which will serve as the proving ground for Mars during the 2020s.
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