America’s space program appears to be the place where government and industry are taking concrete steps toward increased public-private partnerships as a means to spur innovation on both sides and create opportunity for both sides to drive value for stakeholders.
We saw two examples of that collaboration this week as both the Air Force and NASA announced their next steps in two initiatives that are garnering much attention from industry observers as potentially transformative for our country’s much-celebrated space program.
Orbital ATK and Elon Musk’s SpaceX were awarded separate funding sets from the Air Force to work on new propulsion systems for the service branch’s heavy-lift launches that currently rely on the Russian RD-180 engine the U.S. government is aiming to replace.
Both of these “other transaction agreements” share development costs between the contractors and the Air Force, which aims to spur new competition in a launch services market through the deals.
The second major space event announced this week came in the civilian realm when NASA selected Orbital ATK, SpaceX and Sierra Nevada for a new round of cargo transportation flights to and from the International Space Station.
Each company will receive six flights a piece under the eight-year Commercial Resupply Services “Round 2” contracts and the Space Station’s program manager said NASA expects to award the first mission this year.
Like the Air Force, NASA also wants to end its dependence on Russia for space access by 2017 and believes partnerships with the commercial sector are the best way to achieve that goal.
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