Friday morning NASA announced the winners of the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) funded Space Act Agreements, with Boeing, SpaceX, and Sierra Nevada Corporation receiving agreements valued at $460 million, $440 million, and $212.5 million, respectively. Given all the political attention that the program has received, particularly in recent months in the debate about how many companies should receive such awards, the reaction from Capitol Hill has largely been positive.
“Today’s announcement shows that NASA has put together a thoughtful selection of companies and capabilities that we anticipate will culminate in a domestic capability to launch astronauts to the International Space Station,” Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) said in a statement. “This is consistent with the approach several of us in the Congress urged NASA to take, to ensure that the limited funds available are spent on developments that have a strong probability of success.” She added that the CCiCap awards “should keep development of commercial crew capability on a schedule to launch as soon and as safely as possible while on a realistic budget.”
“Today’s exciting news is the next step toward launching our U.S. astronauts to the space station on an American vehicle safely, and doing it as quickly as possible,” Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) said in a statement distributed by email. “Congratulations to the winners and all of the companies willing to invest in American space exploration and making this new industry a reality.”
Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA), the ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee’s Commerce, Justice, and Science subcommittee, went the senators one further: he said he plans to visit Boeing and SpaceX facilities on the West Coast on an upcoming trip. “The new spacecraft will end the outsourcing of human spaceflight with the added bonus of creating high paying American jobs,” he said in support of the awards. Fattah added he will also be at JPL for the Mars Science Laboratory landing Sunday night.
Not every is as happy as Sens. Hutchison and Mikulski and Rep. Fattah. “I am disappointed and disheartened by the news that NASA has excluded ATK from the companies” selected for CCiCap awards, Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) said in a statement. Bishop said he understood that Liberty ranked “very high” in technical merit and was the “lowest-risk option.” (NASA has not yet released a source selection statement with details about its decision-making process, but indicated this morning it would do so in the next week to week and a half.) “I will be joining with Senator [Orrin] Hatch, Senator [Mike] Lee as well as the rest of the [Utah] delegation to further investigate every detail of how NASA arrived at today’s disappointing decision.” ATK, of course, has a major presence in Utah, including the manufacturing of the solid rocket motors that would serve as the first stage of Liberty.