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NASA Awards Multi Billion Dollar ISS Supply Contracts

Orbital Sciences brings two decades of experience launching payloads for commercial, government and defense customers, whereas SpaceX has only successfully launched a single dummy payload once.

Spacewalk under way
Two members of the International Space Station crew have begun a spacewalk to install experiments and an electromagnetic energy probe, NASA said Monday night. Expedition 18 Commander Mike Fincke and Flight Engineer Yury Lonchakov also plan to take photographs and relocate an experiment that measures thruster exhaust plumes, the space agency said on its Web site. The spacewalk began at 7:51 p.m. EST and was scheduled to last just over six hours. Lonchakov, the lead spacewalker, is making his first spacewalk. Fincke is making his fifth spacewalk. The electromagnetic energy measuring device they are installing, called a Langmuir probe, could help determine whether electromagnetic energy played a role in pyrotechnical separation bolts on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft. The bolts are suspected in the investigation of ballistic -- steeper than normal -- entries of the Expedition 15 and Expedition 16 Soyuz spacecraft, the National Aeronautic and Space Administration said. The spacewalkers plan to install the Expose-R experiment package on the Zvezda service module. The package contains nine European Space Agency astrobiology experiments, designed to expose biological samples to the harsh conditions of space, NASA said. Meanwhile, Flight Engineer Sandra Magnus installed a baseband assembly and a light housing assembly in the Japanese logistics module's pressurized section.
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Dec 23, 2008
NASA announced Tuesday it awarded two International Space Station (ISS) freight contracts totaling 3.5 billion dollars to private space launch companies Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) and Orbital Sciences Corporation (OSC).

NASA made a 1.9-billion-dollar order for eight launches to OSC of Dulles, Virginia, and contracted 12 missions to Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX for 1.6 billion dollars, NASA associate Administrator for Space Operations Bill Gerstenmaier said in a telephone press conference.

The contracts will fulfill NASA's needs to provide freight and services to the ISS by relying on private launch companies after the agency will retire its three space shuttles in 2010, Gerstenmaier said, adding that the contracts were essential to NASA's future activities and operations.

The first SpaceX launch is scheduled for December 2010, and the first OSC launch is set to take place in October 2011.

Both fixed-price indefinite delivery and indefinite quantity contracts take effect on January 1, 2009 and expire on December 31, 2016. SpaceX will make its first launch in December 2010, followed by OSC in October 2011.

Each Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract plans for transporting a minimum of 20 tonnes of freight to the space station.

The companies are also set to deliver cargo back to Earth, as well as waste and user equipment, Gerstenmaier said, adding that the space crafts will be pressurized or unpressurized depending on the needs.

The cargo will range from materials for scientific experiments, spare parts and the resupply of food and other commodities.

"These agreements will fulfill NASA's need to procure cargo delivery services to the space station using a US commercial carrier after the retirement of the space shuttle," NASA said in a statement.

The contract will provide a transition between the end of the space shuttle program in 2010 and a next-generation launch system.

SpaceX and OSC will transport between 40 and 70 percent of NASA's freight to the ISS -- 20 percent in 2011 and peak at 70 percent in 2013, Gerstenmaier said.

NASA will also rely on services from Europe's ATV and Japan's HTV spatial cargo vessels.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said it is "a tremendous responsibility" for his company to win the contract.

SpaceX has developed its Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft to support NASA. The spacecraft's third and final flight, set for 2010, "will demonstrate Dragon's ability to berth with the ISS," the company said.

Orbital Sciences Corporation is planning to use a Cygnus space vehicle, which will be launched aboard its Taurus II launch vehicle. Both vehicles are currently under development.

The CRS program will showcase "the types of commercial services US space companies can offer NASA," Orbital Chairman and CEO David Thompson said in a statement.

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A Station Celebration
Cape Canaveral FL (SPX) Dec 05, 2008
Ten years ago on December 4, 2008, NASA and its partner nations began building a dream: the International Space Station. On that date, space shuttle Endeavour lifted off on its 12-day mission to deliver NASA's Unity module and connect it to Russia's Zarya control module already orbiting Earth.

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