Commercial Resupply Services
Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) are contracts initially signed by NASA in 2008 for the delivery of cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) by commercial firms. The contracts include a minimum of 12 ISS cargo transport missions to be provided by SpaceX and 8 to be provided by Orbital Sciences.
The SpaceX resupply missions began flying in 2012 who use its Falcon 9 rocket to launch Dragon cargo capsules from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Cape Canaveral, Florida. Orbital Sciences use the Antares (aka Taurus II) rocket to launch its Cygnus cargo carrier from Launch Pad 0B at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), Wallops Island, Virginia on September 18, 2013 and berthed to ISS on September 29, 2013.
US public laws dating back to 1984 and 1990 have directed NASA to pursue commercial options for launching spaceflight missions, whenever such commercial offerings are available. By the 2000s, other more specific Congressional authorizations began to fund explicit development of commercial options for NASA, first for cargo services, and later for ISS crew transport services as well.
The selection of the firms resupplying the space station was publicly discussed by NASA on December 22, 2008. NASA announced the awarding of contracts to both Orbital Sciences Corporation and SpaceX in a press conference on December 23, 2008. PlanetSpace submitted a protest to the Government Accountability Office after receiving a NASA briefing on the outcome of the award. On April 22, 2009 GAO publicly released its decision to deny the protest.
SpaceX launched their first Falcon 9 rocket and a mock-up Dragon capsule successfully on June 4, 2010. Their first flight contracted by NASA, COTS Demo Flight 1, took place on December 8, 2010, demonstrating the Dragon capsule's multiple orbit capability, ability to receive and respond to ground commands, and ability to gain and maintain directional alignment with NASA's TDRSS narrow-band satellite communication system which is used in conjunction with all manned spaceflight to the International Space Station. On August 15, 2011, SpaceX announced NASA had combined the mission objectives of the COTS Demo Flight 2 and 3 missions into a single mission, with the COTS 3 validation tests beginning only if all of the COTS 2 objectives were successfully demonstrated first.
The COTS Demo Flight 2+ mission successfully launched on May 22, 2012, delivered cargo to the ISS and on May 31, landed in the Pacific and was recovered. On August 23, 2012, NASA announced that SpaceX had successfully completed its COTS Space Act Agreement and NASA certified SpaceX to begin their CRS contracted spaceflights.
Phase 1 Missions
Transport flights began under phase 1 of the Commercial Resupply Services contract, CRS 1, in 2012 and are planned to continue into 2015/2016.
Orbital Sciences rolled out its Antares rocket to the launchpad at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in October 2012 in preparation for an on-pad hot-fire test of the rocket in early November 2012. The rocket successfully made its initial launch with a test payload on April 21, 2013.
Orbital Sciences' first COTS demonstration mission was successfully carried out on September 29, 2013., a week behind schedule due to a software malfunction; this is a predecessor mission to the start of Orbital Commercial Resupply Services missions contracted by NASA to resupply the International Space Station. CRS-1 and CRS-2 followed on.
Orbital Sciences' 3rd Resupply mission (CRS-3) from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on 28 October 2014 failed. First Antares launch to use Castor 30XL upperstage, delayed due to boat in launch safe zone. Second takeoff attempt suffered a catastrophic anomaly resulting in an explosion shortly after launch. Contents of the cargo included: Food and care packages for the crew, parts, experiments, and the Arkyd-3 Flight Test (Non-optical) Satellite from Planetary Resources. Shortly after lift-off from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad 0A at 6:22 p.m. (EDT), the vehicle suffered a catastrophic failure. According to NASA’s emergency operations officials, there were no casualties and property damage was limited to the south end of Wallops Island.
The first CRS mission, SpaceX CRS-1, was scheduled for October 8, 2012 at 00:35 UTC from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida. It was the first of 12 planned resupply missions. CRS-1 took off on October 8, 2012 at 03:03:52 AM GMT, achieved orbit, berthing and remained on station until October 28, 2012. Dragon then re-entered the earth's atmosphere and successfully splashed down in the Pacific Ocean.
SpaceX CRS-3, SpaceX's third CRS mission, was scheduled for launch on March 30, 2014, but was delayed due to a fire at one of the radar facilities on the Eastern Range. The launch completed successfully on April 18.
SpaceX CRS-4, SpaceX's fourth CRS mission, was scheduled for launch on September 20, 2014, but was delayed due to adverse weather conditions; the launch occurred on Sunday, September 21, 2014 at 1:52 a.m. EDT (0552 GMT) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
SpaceX CRS-5, SpaceX's fifth CRS mission, was scheduled for launch on December 9, 2014, but was delayed over several dates in December due to manifest adjustments for items lost from the Cygnus CRS Orb-3 launch failure, technical issues found from a static fire test, the U.S. holiday season and staff scheduling, as well as a beta angle period during late December where thermal and operational constraints would make a Dragon berthing prohibited. The launch was rescheduled for January 6, 2015. At 1 minute 27 seconds to launch, the launch was scrubbed due to a thrust vector actuator problem with the second stage engine. The launch was rescheduled to Saturday, January 10, 2015, which completed successfully at 4:47 AM Central time.
Commercial Resupply Services 2
The Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS2) contract definition/solicitation period is currently underway as of early 2014.
On February 21, 2014 NASA posted Request For Information (RFI) NNJ14ZBG007L about a possible follow on to the current Commercial Resupply Services (CRS1) to the International Space Station (ISS).
An "Industry Day" set of meetings was held in Houston on April 10, 2014, where seven high-level requirements for the second Cargo Resupply Services contract solicitation were disclosed to parties who may be interested in contracting with the government to supply "nonscheduled chartered freight air transportation" resupply services to the ISS in the 2015–2024 time period.
The anticipated contract will include "delivery of pressurized and unpressurized cargo, return and disposal of pressurized cargo, disposal of unpressurized cargo, and ground support services for the end-to-end resupply mission" and will include:
- delivery of approximately 14,000 to 17,000 kg (31,000 to 37,000 lb) per year 55 to 70 m3 (1,900 to 2,500 cu ft) of pressurized cargo in four or five transport trips
- delivery of 24–30 powered lockers per year, requiring continuous power of up to 120 Watts at 28 Volts, with cooling and two-way communication services
- delivery of approximately 1,500 to 4,000 kg (3,300 to 8,800 lb) per year of unpressurized cargo, consisting of 3 to 8 items, each item requiring continuous power of up to 250 Watts at 28 Volts, with cooling and two-way communication services
- return/disposal of approximately 14,000 to 17,000 kg (31,000 to 37,000 lb) per year 55 to 70 m3 (1,900 to 2,500 cu ft) of pressurized cargo
- disposal of 1,500 to 4,000 kg (3,300 to 8,800 lb) per year of unpressurized cargo, consisting of 3 to 8 items
- various ground support services for the end-to-end ISS resupply mission
In addition to Orbital Sciences and SpaceX, Boeing and Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) have indicated intentions to bid on the program. There will be at least two contracts awarded. SNC has said it will put forward a variant of its manned Dream Chaser from its failed bid for CCtCap developed under CCiCap contract in the CCDev program. Boeing has said it will put forward a variant of its CST-100 manned capsule from its CCtCAP bid.
- Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) - development of manned spacecraft
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- NASA Commercial Crew and Cargo webpage
- SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies Corporation)
- OSC (Orbital Sciences Corporation)