NASA changes its contract arranged for commercial space


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Turf war: At conference yesterday at the Johnson Space Center, NASA proposed changing how it issues its commercial space contracts so as to give it more control over their design and construction. The commercial companies are not happy.

Brett Alexander, a space industry consultant who counts among his clients the secretive aerospace startup Blue Origin of Kent, Wash., said at the July 20 briefing that industry needs to know NASA’s legal reasoning for dismissing SAAs as an option for the next CCDev round. “From an industry standpoint … we’re kind of flying blind because [NASA] has not divulged what its legal reasoning is, and I think they need to do that in writing. Not a couple charts, not things that you brief, but a legal brief that says ‘here’s why’” a traditional procurement is necessary.

My own sources say this change in contractual approach will significantly slow development of the new commercial manned space rockets and ships, possibly beyond 2017.

The only reason I can see for NASA to do this is to maintain control over manned space, even if they are not building anything. I think NASA is instead going to find out that doing anything to slow this development will be politically very dangerous for them.

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5 comments

  • We should let the market work. If people want to abide by the restrictions in a NASA contract, bully for them. If not, there are several private companies that might be interested. If it takes deep cuts in the NASA budget to force them to realize that the days of government-monopolized space flight are coming to an end, then start cutting.

  • Joe2

    No “deep cuts in NASAs budget” are required to resolve the issue.

    The solution is quite simple (and always has been). If the ‘Commercial’ Space Companies do not want the government oversight – Do not accept the government money.

  • Kelly Starks

    > … I think NASA is instead going to find out that doing anything to slow this development will be
    > politically very dangerous for them.

    I disagree. I think this is in responce to political presure to downsize adn marginalize CCDev. Congres has been adament for years that they did not want CCDeve taken as a serious option for crew carry. Given the failure of the COTS contract to be cost competative even with shuttle, even after getting a lot of cost cuttingadvantages under SAA; its not unreasonable to lookfor a political out to CCDev – and certainly NASA must realize the high political risk to them if they actually flew anyone on CCDev and had any problem.

  • Fred Willett

    Given the failure of the COTS contract to be cost competative even with shuttle,….
    Seriously?
    Cost of COTS $3.5B for 6 years.
    Shuttle $18B for 6 years.
    The figures given at the House hearing were fudged. Max load for shuttle (excluding MPLM)
    Minimum load for Commercial AND assuming shuttle only gets to fly twice and not the 3-4 monthly supply missions of commercial resupply.

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