Is the space race back on?

by Chris Zappone

NASA mentions Russia by name in the press release, which announces the selection of Boeing and SpaceX to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station. The plan includes a test run for each of the companies.

Says NASA administrator Charlie Bolden… “We are one step closer to launching our astronauts from US soil on American spacecraft and ending the nation’s sole reliance on Russia by 2017. Turning over low-Earth orbit transportation to private industry will also allow NASA to focus on an even more ambitious mission – sending humans to Mars.”

A couple things. First, there is some urgency about the plan to certify the companies as contractors, driven by the geopolitical situation with Russia, which has cutting off sales to the US in response to US sanctions over Moscow’s actions in Crimea and Ukraine.

The second point is key.

“The companies will own and operate the crew transportation systems and be able to sell human space transportation services to other customers in addition to NASA, thereby reducing the costs for all customers,” the press release states.

The goal of “opening up” the market of space travel to the private sector has been around since the original space race. If these companies can meet the requirements – and in time – then a wider dividend may be gained. The question is the quality of the rockets and space capsules. Also, SpaceX’s inclusion adds some competitive juice to US government contracting for space – which can’t be bad.