It’s a scoop! I nabbed it for Wired News, and it’s today’s lead story.

Read all about it at, or, after today, at,2697,68528,00.html.

In essence, NASA’s going to start hiring private spaceship companies like transformational Space Corporation (t/Space) to send its crews to orbit. It’s a huge shift for NASA, and possibly the only thing that can save its manned space program.

The shuttles are down until at least next March according to the latest reports. Coincidently, that’s when Lockheed Martin and a team made up of Boeing and Northrop Grumman are due with their concepts for NASA’s big-budget next-gen spaceship. Concepts. No actual hardware, or even finished designs.

Meanwhile, t/Space has spent the last year building and testing hardware for an orbital spaceship it wants to hire out to NASA on a contract basis. If fully funded, they’ll get to orbit way before the big guys.

To anyone who stops and thinks about the situation for more than five minutes, and that includes NASA administrator Mike Griffin, hiring lean, hungry space startups to get NASA off the ground again quickly and affordably makes a hell of a lot more sense than relying soley on fat, monolithic aerospace primes whose executives’ salaries burn up more NASA money than t/Space’s entire annual budget.

Lots of heavy-duty politics going to fight this one, though. Griffin can only do so much with the money directly under his control before he has to turn to congress to get this new program fully funded. And a lot of powerful dudes in Congress have a vested interest in keeping the (very lucrative) status quo, no matter how many astronauts have to die along the way.

Meanwhile, the Russian Space Agency has pulled way ahead of NASA, also as I report on today’s Wired News. After today, hit,2697,68529,00.html.