Several key members of Congress have expressed their support for a deal announced Tuesday between NASA and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) on the agency’s commercial crew program. That deal will allow NASA to make at least two awards in the next round of the competition and use Space Act Agreements, as the agency had sought to do, while agreeing to vet the financial viability of companies before giving them awards and securing a “first right of refusal” for any property developed under those awards.
“I am pleased that NASA has laid out a cost-effective plan to continue development of a commercial crew capability that maintains strong reliance on industry competition during the upcoming integrated design phase,” said Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), chairman of the House Science Committee, in a release by the committee. “This approach answers many lingering concerns voiced by Members of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology about uncertainties plaguing the program’s cost, and its ability to mandate crew safety design features.” Hall added that the committee will hold a hearing later this summer on the progress NASA has made on its commercial crew efforts, although it’s not clear if this will take place before or after NASA makes the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) awards in July or August.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a strong supporter of the agency’s commercial crew program, said he was “pleased” with the agreement between NASA and Rep. Wolf. That agreement, he said, ensures “that the Commercial Crew Program will move forward quickly while preserving competition in the program.” When the full House debated the appropriations bill that funds NASA—which included report language by Wolf calling for a downselect to one major awardee and the use of conventional FAR-based contracts—Rohrabacher expressed his concerns about that report language in a colloquy with Wolf.
The agreement also has the support of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), who said the deal matched ear earlier calls to downselect to two providers in the next round. (The deal does allow for a “partial” award to a third company as well.) “This is an important turning point that should keep development of commercial crew capability on schedule and on budget, and assure that NASA will also have the financial and human resources it needs to move forward with developing heavy launch capabilities for deep space exploration,” she said. (Hutchison, incidentally, is speaking at a Women in Aerospace breakfast this Tuesday, June 12, in Washington, which will give her the opportunity to expand on those comments.)