NASA inks agreement with maker of Atlas V rocket

Jul 19, 2011
This NASA TV video grab shows the Atlas V rocket as it takes off in 2010. NASA said Monday that it had reached an agreement with United Launch Alliance (ULA) to try to adopt the Atlas V commercial rocket to send astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).

NASA said Monday that it had reached an agreement with United Launch Alliance (ULA) to try to adopt the Atlas V commercial rocket to send astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).

ULA is a joint venture between Boeing and designed to provide cost-efficient rockets to send US government missions into space.

The agreement was unveiled as the prepares to return to earth Thursday from the ISS, its final voyage after three decades of space shuttle flights.

It will be at least four years until the United States will be able to transport its astronauts to the ISS on anything other than Russian Soyez spaceships.

"Having ULA on board may speed the development of a commercial crew transportation system for the , allowing NASA to concentrate its resources on exploring beyond ," said Charles Bolden in a statement.

Under the agreement, NASA and ULA will jointly try to figure out the best way to use the Atlas V rocket to launch an astronaut into space.

Several companies competing to partner with NASA to build a successor to the space shuttle -- like Sierra Nevada Corp. and Blue Origin -- have already chosen the Atlas V to launch future commercial payloads.

Others, like Boeing, are seriously considering this option, while companies like SpaceX are developing their own rocket.

"We believe this effort will demonstrate to NASA that our systems are fully compliant with NASA requirements for ," said George Sowers, ULA's vice president of business development. "ULA looks forward to continued work with NASA to develop a US commercial crew space transportation capability providing safe, reliable, and cost effective access to and return from low Earth orbit and the International Space Station."

Since it went into service in 2002, the Atlas 5 rocket family has mostly provided missions for the US Defense Department. It's been involved in 26 launches with a 100 percent mission success rate.

Explore further: NASA to make announcement on US human spaceflights

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User comments : 16

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LKD
not rated yet Jul 19, 2011
Wasn't NASA supposed to develop a more efficient engine instead of going with existing technology?
Eikka
4 / 5 (2) Jul 19, 2011
Wasn't NASA supposed to develop a more efficient engine instead of going with existing technology?


Yes, but since NASA has always relied on third parties to actually do the developing, or simply bought existing technology, they didn't really know where to start.

So they went 50 years back in time and picked it up where they left it.
LKD
not rated yet Jul 19, 2011
Very disappointing. But I guess that's all we have to work with until we find a way to harvest antimatter a hundred years from now.
PinkElephant
5 / 5 (3) Jul 19, 2011
Don't confuse low-orbit operations with deep space tech. development. The need to man/supply the ISS is immediate, giving no time for extensive/risky R&D. NASA is still committed to its other objectives; it can walk and chew bubblegum at the same time.
LKD
not rated yet Jul 19, 2011
Sadly, I have to say, I doubt NASA will leave LEO anytime in my lifetime with a human being.

They have already contracted with 3 companies to supply the ISS; I believe I recall right. I know SpaceX has 1.7 billion or so to bring their rockets up to code and prove the concept.

I would much rather they paid an American company like LMart or SpaceX to run deliveries of people and supplies so they can focus on finally building a heavy lift rocket that is human rated. It's been how many years since we've had one?
Vendicar_Decarian
1.8 / 5 (6) Jul 19, 2011
"The need to man/supply the ISS is immediate, " = Feh

The plan is for the Russians to do that for three years, and then to dump the space station into the ocean.

You did know that didn't you?

ChiefOfGxBxL
not rated yet Jul 19, 2011

The plan is for the Russians to do that for three years, and then to dump the space station into the ocean.


After checking online, I actually found that what you say is true. Although it is shocking to see all that money invested in research about humans, life, etc. being abandoned, it would prove costly to keep maintaining the station. A resource says that it would take 27 shuttle missions to dismantle each ISS module and bring them back home safely. Bush's space plan called for the end of the ISS in 2016, but under the Obama space plan, that date is extended to 2020.

--> http://en.wikiped..._deorbit

At least with the more versatile vehicles NASA wants to use, they will be able to send more manned missions into space, more frequently, and for less of a cost.
Vendicar_Decarian
1 / 5 (4) Jul 19, 2011
People are often shocked to find that everything I say is true.

"After checking online, I actually found that what you say is true." - Chief

Jim1138
not rated yet Jul 20, 2011
People are often shocked to find that everything I say is true.


A link would be helpful. Also amazing that people rate you apparently before googling!
LKD
not rated yet Jul 20, 2011
Also amazing that people rate you apparently before googling!


I noticed that too. It's a shame when people get that for the wrong reasons.
Jim1138
5 / 5 (1) Jul 20, 2011
It's a shame when people get that for the wrong reasons.


People vote on what they want to be true.
emsquared
not rated yet Jul 20, 2011
ULA is a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin...

I think this pretty much sums it up. That old military-industrial complex is a bitch of a thing to overcome.
Vendicar_Decarian
1 / 5 (2) Jul 23, 2011
What is NASA?

Never heard of it.
eachus
not rated yet Jul 24, 2011
The next major step in space needs to be a space elevator. It would be a shame to waste the ISS, when it may be needed to assemble the first space elevator.

Don't get fooled by "artists conceptions" of what a space elevator would look like. I expect the first space elevator to have multiple anchor points, say in the Galapagos Islands, and to weigh less than a thousand tons.

Oh, and climbing the whole way up a space elevator is silly, especially for humans. Go up several thousand kilometers, kick off and use a high performance plasma engine to get to geosynchronous orbit. Saves wear and tear on the elevator, and probably uses less energy. (Depending on how elevator cars are attached to the elevator itself.) Certainly takes days not months.
stripeless_zebra
not rated yet Jul 24, 2011
Atlas V will use the most advanced and fuel efficient rocket engine ever developed.
And it is worth to mention that this engine is 100% Russian made. Good job NASA!
PinkElephant
not rated yet Aug 12, 2011
@VendicarDecarian,
People are often shocked to find that everything I say is true.
It's astonishing your ego hasn't yet detonated like an H-bomb from all that internal over-pressure.

Try to recall how far beyond its planned life in orbit Mir was taken by the Soviet Union (were you even born yet back in those days?) Everything on the ISS is over-engineered and over-designed to last at least another decade past 2020. And I will eat my own unwashed socks if ISS doesn't get extended way past the current projections. Oh wait, there's no need to speculate:

http://news.disco...729.html

You don't sink that much money into an international project only to de-orbit it as soon as it's built. I won't be surprised at all if it's still up there past 2030.