Monday, July 18, 2011

ULA Joins Commercial Space

An Atlas V with the NASA New Horizons probe to Pluto that launched on January 19, 2006.

NASA issued a press release today announcing another agreement with the private sector to help develop commercial space.

Through a new agreement, United Launch Alliance (ULA) will provide technical information to NASA about using the Atlas V rocket to launch astronauts into space. The announcement was made Monday at ULA headquarters in Centennial, Colo.

The Atlas V has been suggested as a launch vehicle for the Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser. NASA announced an agreement on July 7 with Sierra Nevada "to make use of the deep resources existing at the Kennedy Space Center," although it was not specified what those resources might be.

Florida Today reported on July 15 that Boeing was negotiating to lease one of the orbiter hangars to build the CST-100 crew vehicle.

The ULA web site has the same press release, but it also has a link to generic video of ULA Atlas V launches.

Florida Today in reporting on today's agreement suggests, "The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket could become the next rocket to propel U.S. astronauts into space."

The Atlas V appears to be a vehicle of choice for companies developing commercial space taxis to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Boeing is considering the Atlas V for its CST-100 capsule. Sierra Nevada is planning to launch its Dream Chaser space planes on Atlas V rockets.

UPDATE July 19, 2011Florida Today has more on the NASA-ULA deal.

Powerful Atlas V rockets could become the next U.S. launch vehicles to propel American astronauts into space as a result of an agreement announced Monday.

NASA and United Launch Alliance plan to analyze all Atlas V systems to see if they meet strict safety requirements for U.S. human spaceflight.

No money is changing hands, and the agreement is not expected to yield new jobs to replace those being lost with the retirement of the nation's shuttle fleet.

But the pact could be a springboard to a day when Atlas V rockets soar toward the International Space Station with commercial space taxis built by different companies.

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