Sen— Excalibur Almaz Inc (EAI), a commercial space business, has successfully completed its Commercial Crew Development partnership with NASA.
EAI was awarded an unfunded Space Act Agreement under NASA's Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2) Program in October 2011.
EAI has a contract to use the space capsule owned and being upgraded by Excalibur Almaz Limited (EA), an internatioanl space company based on the Isle of Man.
EAI began exchanging technical information with NASA in October 2011 under its Space Act Agreement. The spacecraft's design was reviewed as well as its compatability with various launch vehicles. Testing plans were also discussed and all milestones under the SAA were completed on June 19 2012.
Ed Mango, NASA's Commercial Crew Program Manager, said: "During this unfunded Space Act Agreement with EAI, NASA learned valuable information about how the company plans to upgrade the existing capsule with modern flight capabilities. We commend the EAI team for completing all of their established milestones during this partnership."
Buckner Hightower, CEO of EAI, commented: "The interchange of technical information between the EAI team and the NASA Commercial Crew Program during the past year has been a very positive and important step toward the completion of our commercial transportation system. NASA's feedback related to clarification of commercial crew transportation requirements was of significant assistance to support our efforts to provide safe, reliable and cost effective space transportation for both commercial and government customers."
To understand the space technology of EAI one needs to look at its supplier, EA.
EA has acquired six spacecraft from the Russian company NPO Mashinostroyenia which built the spacecraft for the Almaz military space program. The fleet acquired consists of four reusable re-entry vehicles (RRV) that can carry three passengers each and two large Salyut-class space stations. EA plan to update the acquired spacecraft with modern spaceflight systems.
"The EA fleet is derived from proven hardware which has spent thousands of days in space already and includes an
emergency-escape system which is fully flight tested" explained EA founder Art Dula at the Third European Space Tourism Conference in London in June 2012. Dula used the conference to annouce ambitious plans to take people back to the Moon as early as 2015, saying “[the] Excalibur Almaz fleet is capable of sending a crew deeper into space than any other existing vessel. Our space-stations and re-entry shuttle vessels, in combination, will enable us to take ordinary members of the public to the Moon as early as 2015.”
With the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2011 NASA’s strategy is to use commercial businesses to service low-Earth orbit. Cargo and crew transport is managed by the Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office – C3PO – from the Johnson Space Center. Under C3PO, cargo transportation is organised under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) Program whilst the transport of astronauts is developed under the Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) Program.