FleaPlus writes: NASA's C3PO program has announced the first year's winners of a $50M contract competition for developing commercial spaceflight systems; their initially-planned $150M in funding was diverted by Congress towards the soon-to-be-cancelled Constellation project. The contracts are for $20M to Sierra Nevada for their in-progress Dream Chaser reusable lifting-body spacecraft, $18M to Boeing to develop a capsule with Bigelow Aerospace to launch on a variety of existing rockets, $6.7M to the ULA for an emergency detection system (needed for human-rating their existing rockets), $3.7M to the normally-secretive Blue Origin for developing a novel 'pusher' launch escape system and testing a crew module made of composite materials, and $1.4M to Paragon Space Systems to build and demonstrate a turn-key air vitalization system. SpaceX and Orbital will continue their earlier COTS contracts for cargo delivery to the ISS. Contracts in future years, totaling $6 billion over 5 years, will be competitively awarded based on performance and the goal of achieving safe, reliable, and cost-effective access to orbit.
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