Sep 07 2014

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I predict the winner(s) of the CCtCap

NASA will be awarding the next phase of the Commercial Crew Development program, the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap), within the next week or so. I thought it would be worthwhile to examine Boeing’s CST-100, Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser, and SpaceX’s Dragon v2 CCtCap entries and make a guess as to which one or ones NASA will pick.

Here is the tale of the tape:


Spacecraft CST-100

Dream Chaser

Dream Chaser

Compatible Lift Vehicles
Atlas V
Atlas V
Falcon 9
# Passengers
7 passengers
7 passengers
7 passengers
CCiCap Funding (2012-2014)
$480 Mil
$227.5 Mil
$460 Mil

Other observations:

  • ULA says that they can launch an Atlas V for less than $100 mil. I don’t completely buy that, but even if it is true, a Falcon 9 launches for about $54 mil, and that’s a 2011 number with no rocket/payload reuse.
  • SNC’s Dream Chaser planning seems to account for not winning CCtCap, and they say they’ll continue on even if they don’t win. Ditto SpaceX.
  • Boeing has warned employees about layoffs if they lose the CCtCap contract. This really is a formality, but it’s interesting that the other two competitors haven’t done so.
  • The same Boeing layoff article points out that ULA will lose work as well if Boeing isn’t picked.
  • Both the CST-100 and the Dragon v2 will be able to landing on either land or in water.
  • Dragon v2 is based on the Dragon v1 which has already conducted 3 ISS resupply missions.
  • Per Wikipedia,NASA’s 2014 budget for CCtCap is US$696 million, reduced from an Obama Administration request of US$821 million. As of January 2014, NASA has not yet decided whether to fund more than a single program.


My gut says that the Dream Chaser is out. They haven’t gotten the funding support from NASA that the other two teams have, and Dream Chaser doesn’t bring anything to the table that the CST-100 and Dragon don’t.

The first question then is “Are there going to be two CCtCap winners, or just one?”

I think the answer to the first question is “One”. With only $696 mil available, there isn’t enough to go around between Boeing and SpaceX.

If that’s the case then, will it be Boeing or SpaceX?

From a taxpayer’s standpoint, the low launch cost of Falcon 9 (which will likely get even lower), is a real selling point. Plus, SpaceX has actually received less funding from NASA than Boeing has (much less if looking all the way back to CC Dev 1), meaning they’ve done more with less.

That said, politics are going to play in the decision, since its such a big contract. Both Boeing and SpaceX have been lobbying Washington hard on this, but there is a school of thought that SpaceX has pissed off at least part of Washington by protesting the Air Force decision.


Boy, I hate to say it, but I think SpaceX already delivering cargo via the Dragon v1 works to their disadvantage.

I therefore think NASA will give the CCtCap to Boeing for a couple of reasons.

  1. With the award to Boeing, NASA has three companies servicing the ISS (SpaceX & Orbital Sciences doing cargo), thus providing more manufacturing depth to the aerospace industry.
  2. SpaceX has said it will continue Dragon v2 development whether they win the CCtCap contract or not, which means that if the CST-100 does not live up to expectations, Dragon v2 provides NASA a fall-back position. If the roles are reversed, the CST-100 is dead and there’s no backup to a moribund Dragon v2.

I sure hope I’m wrong, because I think SpaceX provides better long-term value to the tax payer.

P.S. It was late when I pulled this all together, and out of sure laziness and the fact that my bed was calling, I probably relied on Wikipedia more than I should have. If anybody wants to provide me manufacture links that are substantially different than the links I’ve provided, I’ll take a look at them.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.newspaceraces.com/2014/09/07/i-predict-the-winners-of-the-cctcap/


2 pings

  1. ron miller

    I work for NASA AOD at Ellington Field in Houston on the aircraft astronaut training aircraft program, specifically the T-38 program, I see on a daily basis astronauts who can’t wait for the programs to move forward, until then they will continue to train and I will continue to maintain their aircraft.


    1. dcmckay3

      I can’t think of anything more frustrating than being an American astronaut these days. Their patience will be paid off eventually. Thank you for your service to our astronauts!

  2. Carroll

    Although you point out the cost savings to the public, I would counter that the Atlas rocket has proven its reliability and that trumps the Space -X rocket with its failures. Bottom line is although it may cost more the ULA Boeing concept has the history to continue safe reliable launches. If a failure should occur it would deal a great cost to the program but the confidence and rebuilding such a problem may dry up the possible cost savings achieved using the lower cost bidder.

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