NASA offers $3.1 billion for International Space Station cargo supply

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Under NASA's new International Space Station commercial resupply contracts logistics providers can expect minimum cargo requirements of 20,000kg (44,000lb) and maximum awards of $3.1 billion. But companies will probably have to provide their own cargo processing facilities that meet the US space agency's standards.

With the Space Shuttle to be retired in 2010, NASA has opted to procure ISS cargo resupply on a commercial basis between calendar year 2010 and 2015. NASA's logistics estimate for that period are an up and down mass total of 82,400kg, based on an ISS crew of six. On 14 April NASA released its final request for proposals, setting out the process that will lead to a selection of one or more resupply contractors on 28 November.

As well as satisfying NASA's flight-operations requirements on paper, the contractors' spaceships must complete on-orbit tests during the first delivery mission before docking with the ISS. But the real test could be whether potential contractors can be competitive and still provide the cargo processing facility required.

Asked if NASA would obtain European Space Agency Automated Transfer Vehicle resupply should the contractors not be ready to deliver in 2010, NASA's ISS programme's transport office manager, Kathryn Lueders said: "The plan is secure all upmass through domestic services."

 © European Space Agency

She says NASA arrived at the $3.1 billion figure through an internal assessment, but declines to give details. The cargo minimum of 20,000kg would be for a number of missions over many years.