NASA has offered $65 million to 6 new NextSTEP partners for the development of ground prototypes of deep space habitats.
NASA is set on making a trip to Mars. It is not for a brief jaunt either. This is why it has set aside $65 million which it is offering six companies over a two year time period.
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The aim is the development and road-testing of deep space habitats. These would come in handy on the way to and on the surface of the Red Planet. All this is part and parcel of the organization’s NEXTStep program.
NEXTStep is an ongoing partnership program that comes under the tutelage of NASA’s AES setup. The funding of private research for technology meant for space discoveries is the goal here.
The contracts that were signed last year regarding this were for a number of things. This year though, they are all on the same footing.
The objective is the settlement of deep space habitats where human beings will live and do labor and research work for extended periods of time. This will occur without any cargo supplies from earth. Spaceships that are huge in size are what NASA is into here.
What we are are talking about here are astronomical amounts of funding money. Last year, it was a measly $15 million that got distributed among ten agencies.
This year though, it is $65 million which is being divided between six agencies. Thus each agency gets a size-able portion of the economic pie meant for space research.
The six selected partners by NASA are:
- Bigelow Aerospace LLC of North Las Vegas, Nevada
- Boeing of Houston
- Lockheed Martin of Denver, Colorado
- Orbital ATK of Dulles, Virginia
- Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Space Systems of Louisville, Colorado
- NanoRacks of Webster, Texas
These lucky companies are each taking their own path towards the building of deep space habitats. The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module was recently attached to the ISS. It is undergoing tests. A new version of this module that will be 20 times as large is in the cards.
It will be termed XBASE. To furnish cargo modules carried by the Space Shuttle into habitable multi-purpose environments is something worthy of being accomplished.
Yet there are challenges along the way. It is not as easy in reality as it looks to be so on paper. NanoRacks is another recycling setup that is worth a gander.
As a commercial experimentation platform, it lies just outside the ISS. It may be a crazy idea but it just might work. Sierra Nevada, Boeing and Orbital ATK are other ventures that show a lot of promise.
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Once these projects get off the ground and progress, NASA will be entering its prime as a firm that allows mankind to go where no man has gone before.