NASA has issued a call for industry to submit proposals for the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability Initiative.
In 2010, President Obama proposed a change in how NASA operates. Prior to that, NASA had carried out the task of ferrying materials and personnel back and forth to space, for example to the International Space Station. President Obama proposed that the private sector handle more of those kinds of tasks.
In this age of financial crisis, austerity programs and budget cutting, NASA has had to rethink its old methods. One of the changes it is undertaking is this effort to blend government-sponsored programs (traditional NASA) with private industry.
It's expected that proposals will lead to Space Act Agreements that will help NASA and the U.S. achieve safe, reliable, and cost effective human access to space. NASA expects to make multiple awards this summer, with values ranging from $300 - $500 million.
NASA's announcement asks industry to propose a base period of approximately 21 months, running from award through May 2014. The goals of the base period include completing the design of a fully integrated commercial crew transportation system, which consists of the spacecraft, launch vehicle, ground operations, and mission control. In addition, NASA is asking for the proposals to contain optional milestones beyond the base period leading to and culminating in a crewed orbital demonstration flight.