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related to Recovery Act spending and allows for the reporting of potential fraud, waste, and abuse.

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Recovery Funds R&D for New Space Vehicles

Artist's rendition of Boeing's crew module - seen in orbit and in a cutaway view.

Funded by a combined total of $50 million in Recovery grants from NASA, five private companies have completed initial steps in the design and construction of new space transportation vehicles intended to replace the NASA shuttle fleet when it is retired later this year.

Sierra Nevada Corp., Boeing, United Launch Alliance, Blue Origin, and Paragon Space Development received the grants as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Development program, which was unveiled in 2009 as a long-term plan to spur the commercial space industry to innovate and develop the next generation of spacecraft and launch vehicles. The spacecraft – or “space taxis,” as NASA has called them – will take astronauts into low-earth orbit or to the International Space Station after being launched by expendable rockets such as the Atlas V or Delta IV. 

The Recovery grants provided the first round of funding to begin development of initial components and systems.

Sierra Nevada Corp. – Louisville, Colorado

Artist's drawing of Sierra Nevada Corporation's Dream Chaser spacecraft
$20 million toward the development of the Dream Chaser spacecraft, including:
  • Manufacturing of equipment necessary to build Dream Chaser
  • Developing and test-firing a new rocket engine
  • Fabricating and testing the strength and capability of the main cabin and bulkhead pieces

Boeing – Houston, Texas
$18 million toward development of a spacecraft based on the shape of the Apollo capsule, starting with designs for:

  • Onboard life-support system
  • Automated rendezvous and docking system
  • Orbital navigation and maneuvering system

Atlas V launch rocket

United Launch Alliance – Centennial, Colorado
$7 million toward modifying/enhancing their Atlas V and Delta IV launch rockets to include new systems for:

  • Detecting emergencies during launch
  • Instantly analyzing any equipment failures during launch
  • Instantly evaluating any direct threats to crew during launch

Blue Origin – Kent, Washington
$3.6 million toward development of the New Shepard spacecraft, including:

  • Designing a light-weight crew capsule that is highly damage-resistant
  • Producing emergency crew-protection systems, such as a means for aborting or escaping launch
  • Testing prototypes of those systems with existing Atlas V launch rockets

Paragon Space Development Corp. – Tucson, Arizona
$1.4 million toward development of an onboard air-and-climate control system, including:

  • Manufacturing, assembling, and testing a prototype
  • Demonstrating prototype’s capability for removing carbon dioxide and moisture from cabin, and for maintaining heat
  • Analyzing and documenting all results that would affect the eventual design of the fully functional flight system

All five grants were awarded in January 2010; Sierra Nevada, Blue Origin, and Paragon completed their work in December. Boeing and ULA completed theirs in the first quarter of 2011.

In April 2011, NASA announced a second round of funding – totaling about $270 million, from the agency’s fiscal 2011 budget – for the next phase of the Commercial Crew Development program.

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