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.”