NASA Revises Commercial Crew to LEO Requirements for Finalization in March 2011

NASA last week released updated requirements for commercial space operators to meet when carrying NASA astronauts to the International Space Station, but the agency says not to call it “human-rating,” reports Spaceflight Now.

The intent of the revised document is to define the requirements, standards, and certification package contents that will be used to certify a CCTS to carry NASA crew members on Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Missions. NASA plans to purchase commercial crew space transportation services to LEO and the International Space Station (ISS) as part of NASA’s exploration plans and policies. Certification of a commercial space transportation system during the development/demonstration and procurement of services, rather than the space system itself, represents a significant departure from the way NASA has approached human spaceflight in the past.

NASA expects to finalize the 1100-series documents by the end of March 2011, about when the agency plans to award the second round of seed money for the Commercial Crew Development program, or CCDev 2. Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corporation, Virgin Galactic and other firms have partnered to build a 4-passenger commercial spaceplane for LEO flights (above). The X-34, built by Orbital, was recently placed at Mojave, California to inspire engineers.

The European Space Agency may also be reviving an effort to develop the Hermes-Lite with tests of an experimental vehicle in 2012, suggest some experts. It is expected that the Europeans may human-rate their spaceport in French Guiana sometime during the decade ahead, especially with the initially unmanned Russian Soyuz launches set to begin in 2011.

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