At last week’s International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS) in Las Cruces, New Mexico, NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver made the argument that spending on NASA’s Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program now would save more money later that would have to go to Russia for continued Soyuz flights. She is not the only person in government or industry making the case for CCDev, as several recent comments demonstrate.
Earlier at ISPCS, George Nield, associate administrator for commercial space transportation at the FAA, suggested that CCDev wasn’t getting enough funding. “Unfortunately, for the next several years, we will be completely dependent on the Russians to take our astronauts to the space station,” he said in remarks last Wednesday at ISPCS. “Although several companies are eager to show they can do the job as part of the Commercial Crew Development program, the limited amount of money that has been allocated to the program to date calls into question, at least for me, whether we are really serious,” he said.
At the same conference, Robert Bigelow of Bigelow Aerospace blamed his company’s recent decision to lay off just over half of its workforce on the slow pace of CCDev activities. Bigelow had hoped to launch its first operational habitats in 2014, but a combination of a lack of vehicles available to service those modules as well as delays among potential customers forced him to slow down the pace of work at the company and downsize its workforce. “Why be ready in 2014 with two of our large spacecraft ready for launch and fly, and we don’t have transportation and our clients aren’t ready?” he said in a speech at ISPCS last Wednesday.
The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) is also warning about CCDev funding, Aviation Week reports. At an ASAP meeting last week, one member, John Marshall, worried that “without sufficient funding, NASA will be forced to delay its development objectives or refocus the funding it has on a single provider, undermining reliability and cost effectiveness,” according to the article.
Meanwhile, there’s been one addition to Wednesday’s hearing about CCDev by the full House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. NASA Inspector General Paul Martin will join Bill Gerstenmaier on the second panel. At the end of June Martin’s office issued a report on “challenges” facing NASA’s commercial crew plans, citing several issues ranging from crew safety requirements to various models of NASA insight or oversight of commercial providers to contracting mechanisms.