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NASA awards two space station freight contracts

NASA awards two space station freight contracts

Moving 20 tons of cargo 190 miles may not seem like a major accomplishment, but when you can do it straight up using a state-of-the-art rocket system, it can earn you a sizable contract from the government.

   NASA announced Dec. 23 that it has awarded two private industry contracts to haul cargo to the International Space Station worth a total of $3.5 billion dollars.

   The contracts were awarded to two private space launch firms, Hawthorne, Calif.-based Space Exploration Technologies Corp. and Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, Va.

   OSC will receive $1.9 billion for eight launches to the ISS, while Space Exploration, known as SpaceX, will receive $1.6 billion for 12 launches.

   The two contracts will meet up to 70 percent of NASA's need to provide private freight and service calls to the ISS after the agency retires the fleet of space shuttles in 2010.

   Both of the NASA deals are fixed-price indefinite delivery and indefinite quantity contracts, taking effect on Jan. 1, 2009 and expiring on Dec. 31, 2016.

   SpaceX will launch its first mission under the contract in December 2010 and OSC's first launch is scheduled for October 2011.

   Each mission calls for the transport of a minimum of 20 tons of freight to the ISS, which orbits the Earth at an altitude of about 190 miles.

   The primary cargos will be scientific equipment, spare parts and consumables for the ISS resident crews.

   The two contracts will provide between 20 percent and 70 percent of NASA's delivery needs to the ISS'20 percent in 2011 and peaking at 70 percent in 2013. NASA will rely on the Europe's ATV and Japan's HTV to make up the difference. The two contracts, according to NASA, are to provide a transition service between the end of the space shuttle program and the inauguration of a next-generation launch system that is now under development by the space agency.

   SpaceX will rely on the firm's self-developed Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft, while OSC will rely on its self-developed Taurus IITM launch vehicle and Cygnus spacecraft.

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