MENLO PARK, CA - Sept. 1, 2004 - NASA has awarded a $3 million contract to the Transformational Space Corporation LLC to develop a comprehensive plan for renewed lunar exploration and development.
Transformational Space Corp. ('t/Space") was chosen by NASA based on a proposed lunar architecture powered by market-based competition, spurred initially by NASA incentives. In the t/Space scenario, companies will design, build and own the lunar infrastructure (vehicles, habitats, power stations, greenhouses and the like) from which NASA will buy services to support its explorers.
The t/Space team includes Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites Inc., which made history recently by rocketing the first commercial pilot into suborbital space aboard SpaceShipOne. Another key player is AirLaunch LLC, which is under contract with the Defense Dept. to develop a low-cost responsive launch vehicle. These two companies will collaborate on the design of a Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) to carry NASA astronauts to the Moon in the next decade, and eventually to Mars. Their design will demonstrate how the CEV can be developed on an affordable basis by private industry via NASA incentives, saving the government billions of dollars compared to traditional contracting approaches.
Commercially operated CEVs may be the key to opening the space frontier, because passenger travel to orbit is a potentially huge market. Tapping into public demand for travel to space will create economies of scale, transforming the launch business from vehicles that operate three or four times a year into rockets that routinely fly several times a week - dramatically bringing down the cost of sending people and cargo off-planet. In the t/Space scenario for the future, NASA's lunar and Mars expeditions will be able to stand on the shoulders of this vibrant Earth-orbit economy to achieve faster schedules and lower overall costs.
Other members of the t/Space team:
Constellation Services Inc. of Woodland Hills, Calif., which has developed innovative ways to reduce the cost of cargo supply to the International Space Station and to service satellites in orbit.
Princeton University's Dr. Edward Belbruno, the inventor of Earth-Moon trajectories with twice the efficiency (in terms of mass delivered to lunar orbit) of the trajectories used by NASA in the Apollo program.
Auburn University's James Voss, whose NASA career included 202 days in orbit on five space flights, four space walks, and service as the flight engineer on both the Russian Soyuz space capsule and the U.S. Space Shuttle.
Carnegie Mellon University's Dr. Red Whittaker, whose staff at CMU's Robotics Institute will develop an inventory of potential robot designs useful on the lunar frontier.
Universal Space Lines of Newport Beach, Calif., which has created software that accelerates the introduction of new space vehicles by integrating development-stage software with operational software.
Delta Velocity Corporation of Purcellville, VA, which will contribute systems engineering expertise gained when its principals led the Taurus launch vehicle program at Orbital Sciences Corp.
Spaceport Associates of Washington, D.C., whose principal, Derek Webber, led a groundbreaking NASA-funded study of future launch markets that identified passenger travel as the only one with significant growth potential.