The three companies selected by NASA for its commercial crew integrated capability (CCiCap) programme - Boeing, Sierra Nevada and SpaceX - are beginning to reach their initial development milestones, which will see them receive the first tranche of funding under the scheme.
CCiCap is designed to stimulate the development of crew transportation capabilities to low Earth orbit and each of the three companies involved in the programme has a set of targets to hit in order to receive payment from the space agency.
For its part, Sierra Nevada has completed a programme implementation plan review, which will bring it $30 million under the terms of its space act agreement with NASA. The next milestone, worth as much as £213 million, will be for work on its Dream Chaser winged lifting body, which is currently undergoing preparations for drop tests.
"We agreed to the plan for accomplishing a significant amount of hardware development, testing and the reviews necessary to advance the Dream Chaser toward orbital flight," says Jim Voss, Sierra Nevada's vice-president for space systems.
Boeing, too, is nearing completion of its first programme checkpoint, worth $50 million. "We had the integrated systems review last week, and that went extremely well," says John Mulholland, Boeing's programme manager. "We have a good plan. We have a detailed schedule to support each of these near-term milestones," he adds. "The first four will essentially bring us through the calendar year and into the next, and we're on track to complete those on schedule."
Boeing is developing its CST-100, a more traditional capsule-style vehicle, and stands to receive up to $460 million for completing all its CCiCap milestones.
While SpaceX's has not officially reached its initial CCiCap, the company had two scheduled for completion in August: the CCiCap kickoff meeting, at which the company presents its plans to accomplish all the base period milestones, and a financial and business review to verify the company's ability to do so.
NASA earlier announced that SpaceX had completed the commercial orbital transportation services (COTS) contract, a trial mission to shuttle cargo to and from the International Space Station. With COTS finished, the company has moved beyond the testing phase and plans to launch in October the first of twelve commercial cargo flights to the ISS under a commercial resupply service contract.