Congress, NASA

Briefs: Commercial crew study, SOARS Act update

A provision of the fiscal year 2014 omnibus appropriation bill approved last month requires NASA to conduct “an independent benefit-cost analysis” of its commercial crew program “that takes into consideration the total Federal investment in the commercial crew program and the expected operational life of the International Space Station.” The bill withholds $171 million of the $696 million provided for commercial crew until NASA certifies to Congress that the analysis has bee completed.

At last week’s FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference in Washington, Phil McAlister, director of commercial spaceflight at NASA, said that study was underway, but didn’t say when he expected the study to be complete. “We are actively working that,” he said. “We hope to be able to clear that hurdle and satisfy that Congressional language and get those funds released as soon as possible.”

Last August, Reps. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Bill Posey (R-FL) introduced the Suborbital and Orbital Advancement and Regulatory Streamlining (SOARS) Act, legislation that they say would “streamline” commercial spaceflight regulations. There’s been little action on the bill, though, since its introduction, other that brief testimony about the bill that McCarthy—the House Majority Whip—gave to the House Science Committee in November.

At the FAA conference last week, Congressional staffers were noncommittal about the fate of the legislation as either a standalone bill or incorporation into something like a planned update of the Commercial Space Launch Act (CSLA). Tom Hammond of the House Science Committee staff noted that some of the provisions of the SOARS Act, such as allowing a vehicle that obtains a launch license to retain its experimental permit, have also been discussed for inclusion in the proposed CSLA update. Ann Zulkosky of the Senate Commerce Committee staff said she was unaware of any member of the committee interested in a Senate companion bill to the SOARS Act, with plans instead to address those issues in a CSLA update.

23 comments to Briefs: Commercial crew study, SOARS Act update

  • amightywind

    “that takes into consideration the total Federal investment in the commercial crew program and the expected operational life of the International Space Station.”

    Great. Someone besides me finds it odd that NASA spends 15 years funding 3 independent manned space launch capabilities for a mission that will last 5 years. By the time ISS is retired the US will have 2 lost decades in space.

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “NASA spends 15 years”

      The first CCDev awards were made in 2010, dummy.

      • Explrer08

        I think Dark Blue Nine must be around 12 or 13 years old with his propensity for childish name calling.

        • Dark Blue Nine

          “I think Dark Blue Nine must be around 12 or 13 years old”

          I’ve worked in the sector longer than that.

          (But ouch! What a biting insult!)

          “with his propensity for childish name calling.”

          The other poster regularly doubles or triples this figure, despite repeated corrections, among other dumb lies. He’s a dummy. Make that a lying dummy.

          • Jeff Foust

            Gentlemen: please take the name-calling elsewhere, and keep the discussion focused on the topics of the post. Thank you for your cooperation.

    • Coastal Ron

      amightywind said:

      Someone besides me finds it odd that NASA spends 15 years funding 3 independent manned space launch capabilities for a mission that will last 5 years.

      Apparently being able to use a calculator is not your strong suit. You are probably conflating Commercial Cargo with Commercial Crew, but even then the time span would still be less than 15 years, especially when you take into account when the first systems start becoming operational.

      For instance, for Commercial Cargo it only took SpaceX 6 years to complete the COTS program, and for Commercial Crew SpaceX is planning on being operational within 7 years.

      In comparison the $8B Orion/MPCV has already been in development for 10 years, and isn’t planned for it’s first test flight with humans for another 7 years. I think that’s where you were confused – 17 years for the Orion spacecraft, and even then that only provides one flight with an ESA Service Module, and no funding for future flights.

      Something else to consider is that the Orion/MPCV does not currently support any funded missions, so it’s currently only flying for testing purposes. The Commercial Cargo and Commercial Crew vehicles are needed to support a program that is currently funded, so they are critical portions of the logistics system for maintaining our American presence and experience in space.

    • Mader Levap

      What 15 years? LOL.
      ISS retired? ISS was recently extended and extension by 4 more years (2028) is possible.

    • seamus

      Of course the main idea is to bootstrap the private space industry. That’s a major part of the US National Space Transportation Policy. When the ISS flights are over, hopefully more than one of these companies will be supporting themselves with contracts from other customers. Isn’t the value of competition in any market obvious?

      • Coastal Ron

        seamus said:

        Isn’t the value of competition in any market obvious?

        Windy is a Big-Government type of guy – he does not want the private sector doing things the government can do by spending tons more money. It’s probably a job security thing for him…

        • amightywind

          How many markets do you know where your customer funds your product development to reduce your risk? This is cronyism at its worst. 30 years after Reagan and America has produced a generation of economic illiterates.

          • Coastal Ron

            amightywind said:

            How many markets do you know where your customer funds your product development to reduce your risk?

            Since what NASA is doing is ensuring that they have a secure supply chain, let’s look at other supply chain investment examples, shall we? Here is just one example, Apple Inc.

            Is Apple Going to Spend $10 Billion on a Chip Factory?

            A key quote – “Apple has the resources to make this type of investment and it has been investing a tremendous amount of its capital in its suppliers.

            Apple’s $10.5B on Robots to Lasers Shores Up Supply Chain

            A key quote – “Apple is increasingly striking exclusive machinery deals, said the people familiar with the work, outspending peers on the tools that it then places in the factories of its suppliers, many of which are in Asia.

            Apple to open manufacturing plant in Arizona

            A key quote – “Apple Inc will open a manufacturing facility in Arizona in partnership with mineral crystal specialist GT Advanced Technologies Inc to make sapphire materials for Apple’s popular electronics devices.

            It is quite well known that Apple strikes deals to get exclusive use of the equipment they provide for a set period of time, and then the suppliers can offer excess capacity to other customers.

            This happens in many industries, and what NASA is doing is not unusual at all. It’s also something Reagan would applaud because it is private industry co-investing with taxpayer money. Contrast that to the 100% taxpayer funded SLS and MPCV, neither of which have a chance of being used by the private sector once the government decides not to fly them (which is likely to be sooner rather than later).

          • red

            The customer (NASA) is funding part of product development to get the product they need developed, not to reduce the supplier’s risk.

            This happens all the time. I worked on a product not related to the space industry that had its development funded by the Reagan administration because they needed it, and that was sold to many other customers after that. If tweaks were needed to the product, they were funded by the customer needing the tweaks, and usually sold to others after that.

            How do you think the ATK/LM Liberty rocket/capsule ideas got their start? They were based on systems the government initially developed.

            Do you think NASA or other agencies have clauses in their SBIR/STTR contracts that forbid the suppliers from selling offshoots of their results to anyone else?

            If XCOR builds an engine for ULA, do you think ULA will forbid XCOR from using it on an XCOR spacecraft, or from selling it? That would surely make the deal more expensive for ULA.

          • common sense

            Ever heard of the Internet?

            Do you really know nothing at all? Cornell? Are you sure we are talking about the same Cornell?


            Oh well…

            • amightywind

              “I would found a university where any person can find instruction in any study.” Ezra Cornell

              Even a person like amightywind ;)

              • common sense

                Well at least it looks like you’re coming back full steam ahead. But I think your older rants were a lot better articulated, sounding almost true, dare I say a la Karl Rove. Forget Reagan! I think that you should try and reformulate them. If it is too obvious it’s too easy to refute. Come on a little effort. Have a good weekend then.

          • Coastal Ron

            amightywind said:

            This is cronyism…

            You’ve been schooled on this more than once – you apparently don’t understand the definition of the word “cronyism” since it doesn’t apply to programs that have been competitively awarded.

            If anything the SLS and Orion/MPCV programs are cronyism, since they were specifically funded by politicians that benefit from the funds flowing to their districts.

            Get a dictionary and learn how to read…

          • Andrew French

            Hey Windy – I have been reading your rants against anything associated with Obama for years, but this has to be the dumbest post I’ve seen of yours yet (and it is a VERY high bar). The government invests in risk reduction for purposes of opening new markets all the time – some good examples have already been given… in addition: what do you call what much of the NIH and FDA do in the medical field? Who do you think funded the initial ELV’s? You seriously complain that commercial crew is taking too much time and investment for a limited future and call it cronyism – but somehow believe SLS/Orion is ok? Commercial crew companies have their own skin in the game and are bringing these programs in for a fraction of SLS/Orion (as has been pointed out). SLS/Orion contractors are just getting a huge hand-out from Uncle Sam – no future market at all (and not a single actual mission funded). Reagan would be rolling over in his grave!

            • amightywind

              My original rant lamented that we have spent a long time chasing an expensive 3 way redundant solution to a problem that is getting relevant every year. NASA is wasting time. I stand by this, and I know the ghost of Ronaldus Magnus smiles upon me.

              • Coastal Ron

                amightywind said:

                …and I know the ghost of Ronaldus Magnus smiles upon me.

                Yes, but not for the reasons you would hope he is… ;-)

          • Vladislaw

            Find a fortune 500 company that doesn’t have it’s own venture capital arm to fund new start ups that might be creating something they can either incorporate into an existing product line or as a future new product. I have to agree with Mr. French ..

            Windosovich only likes the Stalinist big government, crony subsidies solution for NASA.

  • MrEarl

    Windy only does this for the reactions he gets. Most posts then become about him. He should just be ignored.

  • James R. Brown

    NASA is an incredible resource for the US, and the world. But it should get out of the launch service. It should be a critical primary customer, and a resource for improving the business. It could certify service to LEO. It should do lots of research, both beyond Earth, and here. It should advocate homesteading outer space, with designs, research funding, and a support for critical businesses. It should get out of the transportation service for anywhere. That includes and starting with LEO, both human and freight. to Lunar orbit and landing, other Earth orbits, Mars orbits, landing, and moons, Asteroids, and beyond. It might help train astronauts, or astronaut trainers for companies. NASA needs to transform into a much more productive leading edge resource for the US, and the world.

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