NASA is announcing the next round of commercial resupply mission (CRS) contracts Thursday. SpaceX and Orbital ATK were awarded the first CRS contracts to send cargo to the International Space Station in 2008. With the initial contracts set to expire in 2017, NASA has to find new partners to send cargo and science experiments to the space station. The NASA CRS announcement live stream begins at 4 p.m. EST.
The first CRS contracts marked an important turning point for commercial partnerships with NASA. Commercial companies will deliver more than just cargo to the space station beginning in 2017. SpaceX and Boeing were awarded the first Commercial Crew Program contracts in September 2014.
SpaceX and Boeing are tasked with returning manned launches to the U.S., beginning in 2017. NASA has relied on Russia for manned launches since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011. SpaceX was awarded a $2.6 billion contract while Boeing received a $4.2 billion contract.
"This space agency has long been a technology innovator, and now we also can say we are an American business innovator, spurring job creation and opening up new markets to the private sector," Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program, said in a statement following the contract announcement in 2014.
SpaceX was awarded a $1.6 billion contract for 12 flights to the space station on December 23, 2018. Orbital ATK was awarded an eight-mission contract worth $1.9 billion. The initial contract period ran from Jan. 1, 2009, to Dec. 31, 2016, but NASA extended the contract into 2017. The space agency ordered three additional flights from SpaceX and two flights from Orbital ATK.
SpaceX, Boeing, Orbital ATK, Lockheed Martin and Sierra Nevada Corporation submitted bids for the CRS contracts.
Members of the NASA Spaceflight forum predicted SpaceX and Orbital ATK would be awarded the contracts. The informal poll had 155 participants, with 61 members saying the two CRS members would remain the sole suppliers. The next popular option was SpaceX, Sierra Nevada and Orbital ATK being awarded CRS contracts. Sierra Nevada Corporation unveiled the Dream Chaser Cargo System in 2015 in its bid for a CRS contract.
"Our Dream Chaser Cargo System provides unrivaled capability for pressurized and unpressurized cargo transportation, including accelerated return of cargo and critical science on every mission," Mark N. Sirangelo, corporate vice president and head of SNC’s Space Systems, said in a statement.
You can watch the CRS announcement below.