WASHINGTON — NASA intends to make multiple yearlong space act agreement awards to firms seeking to mature technologies in support of U.S. President Barack Obama’s commercial space transportation initiative by spring of next year, the agency announced Oct. 1.

“Through this activity, NASA may be able to spur economic growth as capabilities for new space markets are created and reduce the gap in U.S. human spaceflight capability” when the space shuttle retires next year, states the announcement posted on the agency’s procurement web site.

NASA started the Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program in 2009 with $50 million in economic recovery funds. The project led to five contract awards to new and established aerospace firms who are currently using the seed money to mature capabilities in support of a commercial crew transportation system.

Dubbed Commercial Crew Development Round 2, the new awards will comprise a set of follow-on efforts to the existing CCDev initiative to “further advance commercial crew space transportation system concepts and mature the design and development of elements of the system such as launch vehicles and spacecraft,” the document states.

The agency expects to issue a formal announcement calling for CCDev 2 proposals by Oct. 25, according to the document, with responses due 45 days later and a final selection of multiple award winners planned for March 2011.

NASA plans to use its so-called “other transactions” authority under the National Aeronautics and Space Act to invest in multiple, competitively awarded agreements, though funding for the effort will depend on levels provided in pending 2011 U.S. federal spending legislation expected later this year.

The agreements are expected to lead to “significant maturation of commercial crew systems with consideration given to NASA’s draft human certification requirements and standards or industry equivalent to those requirements and standards,” the announcement said. NASA plans to conduct a preproposal conference within two weeks of its forthcoming release to discuss the CCDev 2 activity and answer questions, the document states.