WASHINGTON – NASA plans to spend up to $50 million in federal stimulus funds on competitively awarded Space Act Agreements for commercial crew and cargo systems. Congress in mid-July signed off on the agency’s plan to spend $1 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds.

NASA said Aug. 4 it intends to issue a formal Commercial Crew and Cargo Program solicitation as soon as Aug. 10. Proposals will be due 45 days later with multiple awards expected in November.

Of the $400 million in stimulus money set aside for NASA’s manned space exploration programs, $90 million will be spent on crew and cargo efforts, including $50 million to be spent on multiple, competitively awarded Space Act Agreements intended to foster private sector growth in developing human spaceflight capabilities.

“These efforts are intended to foster entrepreneurial activity leading to job growth in engineering, analysis, design, and research, and to economic growth as capabilities for new markets are created,” stated an Aug. 4 announcement issued by NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

NASA waited months for lawmakers to approve the spending plan, which was submitted to Congress in April. Congressional and industry sources said the funds were held up by Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who wanted all $400 million for exploration to be spent on Constellation, NASA’s effort to replace the space shuttle with new systems. These include the Ares 1 and Ares 5 rockets under development at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.