Gallery – NASA’s next spacecraft options

Artist's conception of the Dream Chaser spacecraft

Artist's conception of the Dream Chaser spacecraft under development by Sierra Nevada of Centennial, Colorado. Dream Chaser would launch vertically on an Atlas V rocket but land horizontally like the Space Shuttle. It aims to carry seven people into low-Earth orbit.

IN 2011, NASA SELECTED a number of companies to mature the design and development of a crew transportation system with the overall goal of accelerating a United States-led capability to the International Space Station.

The programme is called the Commercial Crew Program (CCP), part of the Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2).

According to NASA, the goal of CCP is to drive down the cost of space travel as well as open up space to more people than ever before by balancing industry’s own innovative capabilities with NASA’s 50 years of human spaceflight experience.

Seven aerospace companies are maturing launch vehicle and spacecraft designs under CCDev2, including Alliant Techsystems Inc. (ATK); The Boeing Co.; Excalibur Almaz Inc.; Blue Origin; Sierra Nevada; and United Launch Alliance (ULA).

Artist's conception of the Dragon capsule

Artist's conception of the Dragon capsule under development by Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, California. The unmanned version of the Dragon capsule has already had one successful test flight. The second test flight, due for February 2012, will see it dock with the International Space Station (ISS). After that, it will go into revenue service taking cargo to the ISS. The manned version is still some years away from flight.

Artist's conception of the New Shepard spacecraft

Artist's conception of the New Shepard spacecraft under development by Blue Origin of Kent, Washington.

Artist's conception of the CST-100

Artist's conception of the CST-100 under development by The Boeing Co. of Houston. The CST-100 will be able to take up to seven astronauts to the ISS.

Artist's conceptions of the Atlas V and Liberty Launch vehicles

Artist's conceptions of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket (left) and the Liberty Launch Vehicle (right) under development by Alliant Techsystems Inc., both of which are being considered for NASA's Commercial Crew Program (CCP).

Adapted from information issued by NASA.

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