Visiting the Future

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to get a first-hand glimpse at the future of human space exploration.

NASA is working with multiple industry partners so that American companies can develop a capacity for carrying crew and cargo to the International Space Station, stop the outsourcing of this work to foreign governments and create good jobs right here at home. What I saw in Boulder, Colo. was Sierra Nevada’s amazing Dream Chaser vehicle – a kind of space plane that could be soaring into low Earth orbit in the coming years.

Sierra Nevada is one of the participants in NASA’s Commercial Crew Development program, and last week we decided to exercise additional milestones in their agreement with us to accelerate development of their transportation system. The company has already met four of the nine milestones under the CCDev2 Space Act Agreement (SAA) with NASA, and our amended agreement adds four new milestones — bringing the potential value of Sierra Nevada’s SAA to $105.6 million, if all milestones are completed successfully, to help them create jobs and get our economy back on track.

The Boeing Company, another CCDEV2 participant, also will now pursue additional milestones, and all four of the CCDEV2 participants are performing well. Boeing will receive $112.9 million, if all milestones are reached, money that is being pumped into our economy at a critical time. Transporting crew to the ISS is crucial, and we are focusing hard on ensuring that American companies will be carrying our astronauts and our cargo to space as we ramp up a new era of the station’s potential as an orbiting laboratory without peer. After all, the ISS is the centerpiece of our human space flight activities for the coming years with international crews of six living aboard it 24/7 right now.

Because of the progress Sierra Nevada and our other commercial space partners have made, I am confident that NASA will soon have access to multiple capabilities for reaching low Earth orbit.

And while American innovators open up a new segment of the economy by creating these new capabilities, NASA can focus its energy and resources on deep space exploration.

As President Obama looks for ways to put America back to work, NASA continues to be an engine of job growth and economic opportunity. Our collaborations with private industry are enhancing our ability to design and build the most technologically advanced spacecraft in the world. These partnerships are building an economic sector that will create new high-tech, high-paying jobs in communities like Boulder all across the country – all while ensuring a bright future that ensures America’s leadership in space.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden flies Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser simulator.