America’s Next Manned Space Vehicles

Commentary by Mike Mackowski

NASA will soon select which company will build America’s next manned spacecraft. The winners of the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) Program are expected to be announced any day now. Here are my thoughts and predictions (as if they matter).

I think there are a small number of key factors to consider when picking a new crew carrying spacecraft. Ideally we’d have two designs carried into operational use in case one is grounded for some reason, so they should have some fundamental differences.

  1. You want two different launch vehicles (i.e., don’t pick two that use Atlas V)

That means SpaceX and either Boeing or Sierra Nevada (Dream Chaser)

  1. You want two types of landing modes (i.e. don’t pick two capsules)

That means Sierra Nevada and either Boeing or SpaceX

  1. You’d like to avoid rough landings (Boeing uses airbags on land)

That means Sierra Nevada (runway) and SpaceX (rocket assisted landing)

Based on these simple criteria, I’d pick SpaceX and Sierra Nevada. But based on intangibles, I think NASA will select SpaceX and Boeing.  There is this rule:

  • You want at least one experienced company with a history of manned spacecraft.

That means Boeing. Also Boeing (and probably SpaceX) has better marketing (bigger budgets) than Sierra Nevada. While I personally would like to see a lifting body in the mix, I’m afraid Sierra Nevada will be left out.

So we’ll see.

For more details on this program there is a good article here:


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