In advance of this morning’s House hearing on NASA’s Commercial Crew Development program, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee has released the hearing charter. This includes a set of questions that will likely form the basis of questions during the course of the hearing:
- What are the major accomplishments to date by industry on efforts to develop a commercial crew launch capability? What are the remaining major technical challenges that must be addressed?
- From industry’s perspective, what are the biggest programmatic challenges with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program regarding (1) the agency’s procurement strategy and (2) its approach to insight and oversight?
- What are the industry’s assumptions about the size and vitality of the commercial market (non-US government) for launching astronauts to low Earth orbit?
- What are the likely sources of non-Government passengers that are willing and able to afford the high cost of a trip to space?
- What are NASA’s plans to acquire one or more operational commercial crew systems for ferrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station?
- What does NASA consider to be the biggest challenges confronting commercial crew developers as they attempt to develop and demonstrate their launch vehicle and crew systems?
- Have clear lines of responsibility and accountability been established to ensure safe and successful design, development and operation of human systems?
- What requirements and processes is NASA adopting to maintain the highest level of crew safety, including design and reliability standards for a launch abort system? What steps is NASA taking to coordinate requirements and regulations with the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure compatibility?
- What level of federal investment does NASA require to ensure that at least two commercial providers will be certified and sufficiently funded?
The charter notes that Blue Origin, the one funded CCDev-2 awardee not included in the list of witnesses for the hearing, “was invited but chose not to attend.” The charter also reveals that NASA has signed a third unfunded CCDev Space Act Agreement, this one with Excalibur Almaz. That agreement was signed just last week and no details about the agreement have been released, nor have NASA and Excalibur Almaz formally announced the agreement.