NASA released on July 19 a draft request for proposals (RFP) for its Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contract, the second phase of a two-phased procurement strategy to develop a commercial crew space transportation capability to get astronauts to, and from, the International Space Station (ISS) by 2017. 

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX), Boeing [BA], Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC) and Blue Origin are participating in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP). SpaceX is adapting its Dragon cargo capsule for manned missions while SNC is developing a Dream Chaser plane similar to the space shuttle. Boeing spokeswoman Kelly George July 23 said Boeing would be bidding for the eventual CCtCap contract.

Through its commercial crew development and certification process, NASA will help lay the foundation for future commercial transportation capabilities, upon which the commercial partners can market transportation services to the United States government and other customers. Once a transportation capability is certified for NASA use and services are available, NASA could purchase transportation services to meet its ISS crew rotation and emergency return obligations, according to NASA’s commercial crew website.

Performance-based payments are planned to be used in this competitive negotiated acquisition, NASA said in the draft RFP. NASA proposes deviating from Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) clause 52.232-32 on performance-based payments to enable contractors to maintain some control and title of the property acquired. NASA also proposes deviating from FAR clause 52.227-14 to allow CCtCAP contractors greater rights in data and software under certain circumstances. 

Comments must be submitted by Aug. 15. A pre-solicitation conference and one-on-one sessions are scheduled for Aug. 1 and 2 at Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

Boeing said it recently reached an important milestone in its commercial crew program when it demonstrated that astronauts in its Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 capsule will be able to safely exit the spacecraft during an emergency water landing.

Although the CST-100 is designed to land on the ground, Boeing engineers worked with NASA and DoD search-and-recovery personnel to test several emergency water-extraction scenarios. Testing was performed July 8 at Bigelow Aerospace in North Las Vegas, Nev., as part of NASA’s CCiCap initiative.

The first planned orbital flight of the CST-100 capsule is scheduled for 2016, Boeing said.

NASA so far has doled out nearly $1.5 billion in contracts over four phases for the Commercial Crew Program. The agency in August 2012 awarded $1.1 billion in contracts to Boeing, SpaceX and SNC for the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) phase, the third phase of the program. For the second phase, called Commercial Crew Development-2 (CCDev-2), NASA awarded contracts to the three companies along with Blue Origin.