Congress, NASA

House commercial crew hearing next week

The full House Science Committee is planning a hearing for the morning of Friday, September 14, on “Recent Developments in NASA’s Commercial Crew Acquisition Strategy”. NASA associate administration William Gerstenmaier and Joseph Dyer, the chairman of NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, are the two scheduled witnesses.

The hearing is likely to cover NASA’s decision last month to award funded Space Act Agreements to three companies—Boeing, Sierra Nevada, and SpaceX—for the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) phase of the agency’s overall commercial crew program. Earlier this week NASA released the CCiCap Selection Statement where Gerstenmaier, the NASA selection official, explained the rationale for why NASA elected to make those particular awards, and why the fourth major entrant in the competition, ATK, did not receive an award. ATK officials told Space News that they felt that while their proposal met the goals of the CCiCap program, “those categories were not given clear weighting in the ratings of the proposal.”

In the minutes of the latest ASAP public meeting, held in July at KSC, Dyer noted that ASAP members had recently met with Boeing about their commercial crew efforts and planned to visit with Sierra Nevada and Blue Origin (a company that had a second-round commercial crew development award from NASA but did not submit a proposal for CCiCap) in the coming weeks; they had already met with SpaceX and Orbital Sciences. Noting the diversity of companies, Dyer said, according to the minutes, “This leads to questions about acquisition strategy that the Panel has discussed: Will the government make a source selection decision based on lowest cost but technically acceptable or on best value? How will safety play out in that distribution?”

“In the past, the Panel has expressed some concerns on how best to transition from the Space Act Agreement environment, which allows rapid progress and a good ‘decision velocity’, to the more structured and rigorous effort that would be involved with a FAR-based contract,” the minutes later noted, discussing the panel’s desire for transparency by NASA on its requirements and by the companies on their capabilities. “There was some discussion about how NASA is attempting to meet those concerns. The ASAP is pleased with the progress and looks forward to the final decisions on how that will be implemented.”

14 comments to House commercial crew hearing next week

  • Heinrich Monroe

    Might check out Paul Spudis’ Air & Space blog about commercial space, just posted. Paul makes some excellent observations, but (predictably for Paul) comes down with the pronouncement that commercial space, as it is now known, is a form of oligarchical corporatism and, that being the case, doesn’t deserve federal support.

    Of course, Paul no longer allows comments to his blogs (a decision which I have to assume is permitted by his Air & Space hosts), as he is well known to be quite intolerant of any sort of criticism that might come out of intellectual discourse.

    Although it wasn’t noted, I have to assume that this blog post was motivated by the upcoming House Science hearing.

  • vulture4

    IMHO this just shows how out of touch with reality the ASAP is. If there is anything NASA considers really important they can insist on it under the Space Act; it just helps to cut down on expensive micromanagement, i.e. having to get government permission for every dollar, then make every budget item come out exactly as proposed. When the government is buying a commodity product where cost and schedule are well known, an FAR contract is fine. For R&D it is both wasteful and counterproductive.

  • Coastal Ron

    Heinrich Monroe wrote @ September 8th, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    Of course, Paul no longer allows comments to his blogs (a decision which I have to assume is permitted by his Air & Space hosts), as he is well known to be quite intolerant of any sort of criticism that might come out of intellectual discourse.

    I had to contact his editor to complain about his not letting my comments post, and then I was “allowed” again to post. Not allowing any comments is new though, as up until recently his other blog posts allowed comments. But since he knows the feelings of others on this topic (a number of us CC&C supporter post over there too), he probably does not want any dissent.

    As to the upcoming hearing, Gerstenmaier has always done well testifying, and since he is the person that ran the CCiCap decision process he should be able to explain and defend the decisions very well. While there is always the chance for a Congressperson to want to rant about something real or imagined, I don’t expect anything negative coming out of this hearing.

    As to Dyer being there, I don’t expect anything more than him proclaiming that there is still too much unknown about the certification process for crew (which everyone agrees with), but NASA can point to the separate contracts they have awarded to help guide that process.

    I could be wrong, but I don’t expect any drama. Likely the same for the SLS hearing too, but for that one I wish there would be drama… ;-)

  • joe

    Heinrich Monroe wrote @ September 8th, 2012 at 1:19 pm
    “Might check out Paul Spudis’ Air & Space blog about commercial space, just posted. Paul makes some excellent observations, but (predictably for Paul) comes down with the pronouncement that commercial space, as it is now known, is a form of oligarchical corporatism and, that being the case, doesn’t deserve federal support.
    Of course, Paul no longer allows comments to his blogs (a decision which I have to assume is permitted by his Air & Space hosts), as he is well known to be quite intolerant of any sort of criticism that might come out of intellectual discourse.
    Although it wasn’t noted, I have to assume that this blog post was motivated by the upcoming House Science hearing.”

    Actually the “Air & Space hosts” refused to let Dr. Spudis control the discourse on his website due to complaints by people who post regularly on this board. So they took over regulating the conversation themselves. After a while they became so frustrated with trying to maintain a civil discourse that they, not Spudis closed the comments section. Just in case anyone here cares about what really happened.

  • Robert G. Oler

    http://blogs.airspacemag.com/moon/

    Paul is angry and that and almost nothing else has blinded him to the realities of the world situation regarding space politics and policy…it is the same affliction which is slowly dragging the GOP down to defeat in the Nov Pres race.

    The blog is almost fact free…Spudis does the party line of confusing subsidies with paid for service programs…but thats typical of the right wing now…they simply cant see (with some exceptions) reality in their hatred for Obama…

    But aside from the mistakes he makes almost all the time Spudis makes two that are simply glaring.

    The first is that he cannot come to grips with the notion that Apollo was a fluke that NASA and space policy people have been trying to recreate for decades now.

    The second and most important for this blog is this line ” The Augustine Committee received presentations with options to reconfigure Constellation whereby America could have returned to the Moon (to learn how to use resources found in space) under the existing budgetary cap, but they elected to start from first principles.”

    there is really no program that NASA and the “legacy” contractors could get their hands on, that would not roll over budget and shift out of schedule. Spudis cannot figure out that NASA is functionally brain dead; that they would take a 10 dollar effort and turn it into a 100 or a 1000…as the SLS program (not to mention Orion) must illustrate. It is hard to imagine why Orion is costing so much until you grasp teh fact that almost every project NASA does has an inability to be managed outside the traditional NASA portfolio of clutzs.

    There are political reasons a return to the Moon or a trip to (insert place here) is not sustainable…but the main one is that no real decision maker has any real belief that NASA could do anything even close to time and within 50 percent of budget…

    Paul that’s why you are angry. RGO

  • Coastal Ron

    Off topic, but hopefully our host will indulge.

    joe wrote @ September 8th, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    Actually the “Air & Space hosts” refused to let Dr. Spudis control the discourse on his website due to complaints by people who post regularly on this board.

    I know I was one of them, but according to my records the last time I talked with an Air & Space editor was back in June 2011. My complaint to them was that as a subscriber to Air & Space I was not being allowed to post comments on one of their blogs. At that time Paul had unilaterally banned me from making any comments, and after that I was allowed to post again, although every once in a while my posts would be “accidentally deleted” and I’d have to repost them.

    Not that it’s apple-to-apples, let’s compare Paul’s ‘Once and Future Moon’ blog with this one (Space Politics).

    - Paul’s blog is part of Air & Space magazine, whereas Space Politics is, according to Jeff, “a personal project of Jeff Foust”.

    - Paul posts opinion pieces, whereas Jeff posts topics of discussion.

    - Paul not only defends his opinions, but he also critiques the opinions of others. Jeff rarely posts, but other than reminding people to stay on topic, does not critique what people post.

    Now I’m sure Air & Space saw some value to having an American geologist and lunar scientist contribute to their magazine, and I’m also sure that my lone complaint more than a year ago was not responsible for A & S taking over comment control from Paul.

    All I can say is that Paul’s opinions generate a lot of discussion – certainly when you say that COTS/CRS is an example of oligarchical corporatism, or that Boeing, Orbital Sciences and Sierra Nevada Corp are “companies founded by internet billionaires who have spoken much and often about lofty space plans, but have actually flown in space very little” – you’re going to get competing opinions. Then when you get Paul arguing with the dissenters, that doesn’t look good for A & S, so I guess it’s no surprise they took away control from him. I wonder how much longer he’ll be doing the blog?

    In the meantime, Space Politics continues to be a great source of information and discussion…

  • Fred Willett

    The model set by commercial cargo to ISS was COTS, (a SAA) for development, and CRS (FARs) for the actual CRS delivery contracts. SpaceX has completed it’s COTS(SAA) and is just about to start the CRS(FAR) contract. Orbital is still working it’s COTS(SAA) and will graduate to the CRS(FAR) next year.
    The process has proved amazingly cost effective. 2 rockets AND 2 spacecraft for less than $1B.
    It should be obvious to the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel that this model is working well. CCiCap (a SAA) takes Boeing and SpaceX right through to a demo flight. If there is anything else that needs doing prior to a FAR contract then a 2nd round of CCiCap (SAA’s) could be called. Then you award a FAR to one or more to actually carry crew.
    It seems to me that at times the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel strains at gnats and swallows camels. This is not rocket science.
    Oh wait! It is…..

  • Jeff Foust

    A reminder that the topic of this post is an upcoming commercial crew hearing, not the practices of another blog. As always, please keep your comments on topic.

  • Heinrich Monroe

    Thanks, Jeff. Reminder noted. I didn’t mean to hijack the thread with this. It is actually of some interest that the decision was made by the hosts, rather than by Paul. I didn’t see that noted there. May I also thank you for the opportunity you provide here.

    Perhaps of some relevance to this thread that I’d like to point out is the Senate Commerce Hearing “From LEO to Mars”, which will be webcast live on Wednesday September 12 at 2pm EDT. To the extent that the CEO of one of the CCiCAP partners has grand ambitions to send humans to Mars …

  • DCSCA

    “The full House Science Committee is planning a hearing for the morning of Friday, September 14.”

    Interesting timing. The memorial services for Neil Armstrong at the National Cathedral in Washington are scheduled for Thursday, September 13. The hearing contents will most-likely be bigfooted by residulal refernces to the content and coverage of Neil’s memorial.

  • DCSCA

    “Might check out Paul Spudis’ Air & Space blog about commercial space, just posted. Paul makes some excellent observations, but (predictably for Paul) comes down with the pronouncement that commercial space, as it is now known, is a form of oligarchical corporatism and, that being the case, doesn’t deserve federal support.”

    Spudis is correct.

  • Heinrich Monroe

    Spudis is correct.

    He makes some good points. At least he makes those points in more than three words.

  • NeilShipley

    I think the following statement from the ASAP is pertinent:
    “The ASAP is pleased with the progress and looks forward to the final decisions on how that will be implemented.”
    Therefore nothing really to be concerned about at this stage. As others have pointed out, COTS ended and a CRS FAR-based contract was awarded. In fact, the CRS contracts were awarded well in advance of the ending of the COTS program which for Orbital is still running.

  • In honor of the above mentioned House Science, Space & Technology Committee hearing, the Space Frontier Foundation is offering a $200 prize for the joke or cartoon that best illustrates how ridiculous SLS is:
    http://www.facebook.com/events/283737588393765/

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