NASA, partners move toward return to manned spaceflight



BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. - The four companies developing the next generation of spacecraft said they're reaching some major milestones and some of the credit goes to the groundwork already laid by NASA.

WFTV was at the Kennedy Space Center Wednesday afternoon as members of NASA's commercial crew program met to discuss their singular mission: U.S. commercial crew space transportation.

"Human space flight is not dead in America. There are at least four companies represented here that are working very hard to make that happen in partnership with NASA," said Mark Sirangelo of the Sierra Nevada Corporation.

NASA has already invested $1.5 billion in its commercial crew program, and its partners Blue Origin, the Boeing Company, Sierra Nevada Corporation, and SpaceX.

In 2012, SpaceX flew two cargo missions to the International Space Station. It hopes to fly a test crew to the ISS by 2015.

"The U.S. no longer has the capability to launch people into space and that's something we're not happy about," said Garrett Reisman of Space Exploration Technologies.

NASA's goal is a return to operational flights by 2017 and its commercial partners are reaching for some major milestones.

Blue Origin has already flight-tested a propulsion module. Boeing is entering its final design phase. And Sierra Nevada is about ready to begin it's free-flight test of the Dream Chaser.

"We are moving forward very rapidly and I think it's a testament to where we are with the program," said Sirangelo

Each of the companies in the commercial crew program will have to complete a  certification process before they're allowed to shuttle astronauts.