020111_Where_No_Business_Has_Gone_Before

020111_Where_No_Business_Has_Gone_Before - Where No...

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Where No Business Has Gone Before , With Help From NASA Companies are hoping to launch several new spacecraft with money from the government.February 1, 2011 - By KENNETH CHANG - Science / Space & Cosmos Businesses Take Flight, With Help From NASA By KENNETH CHANG New York Times, Science Section, 2/1/11 ASTRONAUT TRANSIT NASA provided $20M for the development of the Dream Chaser, illustrated here docking at the International Space Station. YEARS AWAY Orbital Sciences says the development of Prometheus, background, would cost $3.5B to $4B. BOULDER, Colo. — Sitting in a testing facility at the University of Colorado , the inner shell of the Dream Chaser space plane looks like the fuselage of an old DC-3. The test structure has been pushed and pulled to see how it holds up to the stresses and strains of spaceflight. With an additional infusion of money from NASA , the company that makes the Dream Chaser, Sierra Nevada Space Systems, hopes to complete the rest of the structure and eventually take astronauts to orbit. “Our view is if we could stop buying from the Russians, if we could make life cheaper for NASA, and if we could build a few vehicles that do other things in low-Earth orbit that are valuable, isn’t that, at the end of the day, a good thing?” said Mark N. Sirangelo, the company’s chairman. The Dream Chaser is one of several new spacecraft that companies are hoping to launch into space with help from the government. Last year, the Obama administration pushed through an ambitious transformation for NASA: canceling the Ares I rocket, which was to be the successor to the current generation of space shuttles, and turning to the commercial sector for astronaut transportation. So far, most of the attention in this new commercial space race has focused on Boeing, which has five decades of experience building spacecraft, and Space Exploration Technologies Corporation — SpaceX, for short — a brash upstart that gained credibility last year with two launchings of its Falcon 9 rocket. SpaceX, led by Elon Musk , a founder of PayPal and chief executive of Tesla Motors , already has a NASA contract for delivering cargo to the space station, and says that it can easily add up to seven seats to its Dragon cargo capsule to make it suitable for passengers. Boeing is also designing a capsule, capable of carrying seven passengers, under the corporate-sounding designation of CST -100.
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