There's been some additional action in the fight over the future of NASA's Commercial Cargo and Commercial Crew programs. Florida Today and The Houston Chronicle ran stories reporting the Commercial Spaceflight Federation industry association's view that Senator Shelby's provision to impose cost-plus contract-type "certified cost and pricing data" on these programs could disrupt contracting and would increase overall costs.
“The language would effectively change an efficient and lean commercial program into a traditional government procurement with all of the associated overhead and cost,” said Alex Saltman, executive director of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation.
“In addition, if this language were to become law before NASA awards the latest commercial crew contracts, NASA would likely have to restart the procurement with these new rules, pushing back the program up to a year and sending hundreds of millions of more taxpayer dollars to Russia for Soyuz rides,” Saltman added. “If the language were to go into effect after the awards, NASA could be tied up in contract renegotiations and challenges for months if not years.”
What To Do
Write (Or Call) Your Senators about this, soon. Senator Shelby is carving out and claiming a very large piece of turf here. Senators from California, Texas, New Mexico, and Florida (SpaceX) and Virginia and Utah (Orbital) should be directly concerned. Other Senators may also want to discourage this sort of overreach.
Don’t try to go into depth or detail. Keep it simple and top-level. Most incoming email won’t get read beyond the first paragraph anyway. Get the key points in the first paragraph, or in your first two sentences if calling.
The gist should be that there’s language in the Senate CJS NASA Appropriation Report mandating cost-plus type accounting for NASA’s Commercial Cargo and Commercial Crew programs, despite those being run on fixed-price contracts. This mandate will greatly increase costs and delay schedules in essential programs that have been till now models of cost-saving. It should be removed from the bill.
SpaceX has conducted what is hopefully the final major milestone ahead of their ORBCOMM OG2 mission from Cape Canaveral. The Static Fire test, conducted at 3pm local time on Friday, should – pending a review – realign the the Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket with a launch of the satellites in window that opens at 09:21 local time on Monday.
WASHINGTON -- The Space Angels Network is organizing a $6,000, three-day tour of Southern California’s commercial space companies that includes stops at SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, Masten Space Systems and XCOR.
The members-only event slated for Sept. 10-12 promises “unique access to some of the most exciting startups and investors in commercial space.
“During the trip you will meet current and future private astronauts, as well as the entrepreneurs who are taking them to space,” the invitation states.
The Air Force has certified SpaceX's Falcon 9 launch system as having conducted three successful flights, a prerequisite for companies seeking to win business from the Air Force's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) Program.
Under Air Force standards, SpaceX is already qualified to compete for EELV missions, but SpaceX must also be certified by the Air Force before any contract can be awarded to the company. Meeting the criteria for successful flights is a key milestone in the certification process.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A plan by Space Exploration Technologies Corp. to build a privately owned launch site just north of the U.S.-Mexico border near Brownsville, Texas, passed a key environmental review July 9, clearing the firm to submit a formal application to the Federal Aviation Administration.
The FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation’s “Record of Decision” culminates a two-year process designed to vet primarily environmental aspects of building a spaceport on the Gulf of Mexico coast eight kilometers south of South Padre Island.
The Golden Spike Company, the world’s first enterprise planning to undertake human lunar expeditions for countries, corporations and individuals, and Honeybee Robotics, a premier developer of advanced robotic systems, today announced they have completed a preliminary design study for unmanned rovers capable of enhancing the next human missions to the Moon.
In partnership with technical staff at Golden Spike, Honeybee engineers conducted trade studies of both flight-proven and promising technologies to design configurable robotic rovers that can collect and store several kilograms of scientific samples from the Moon’s surface in advance of or in conjunction with Golden Spike’s human expeditions.
Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) and Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) introduced the American Space Technology for Exploring Resource Opportunities in Deep Space (ASTEROIDS) Act today that they say will establish and protect property rights for commercial exploration and exploitation of asteroids.
In a statement, Posey and Kilmer said that while it may be many years before asteroids actually are mined for their resources, the research is underway now and companies need greater certainty about property rights to what they are mining. Nickel, iron, cobalt and platinum-group minerals are specifically cited as potential minerals that might be mined on asteroids.
As expected, weather is delaying Orbital’s next commercial cargo mission to the ISS, two days before the original launch. Orbital announced Wednesday afternoon that the launch will slip from Friday, July 11, to Saturday the 12th. Severe thunderstorms Tuesday night at Wallops delayed the rollout of the rocket, and Orbital, as a result, decided to slip the launch schedule by a day. The new launch time is 1:14 pm EDT (1714 GMT) Saturday. The launch delay, though, will not delay the berthing of Orbital’s Cygnus, which is still scheduled for July 15 at 7:24 am EDT (1124 GMT).
United Launch Alliance (ULA) has formally joined the Air Force’s call for the Court of Federal Claims to dismiss SpaceX’s protest of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) block buy contract. As first reported by Space News yesterday, ULA, in its role as “defendant-intervenor” in SpaceX’s suit against the Air Force, filed a motion to dismiss the suit. (The document was released on Tuesday, although it is a redacted version of the original, sealed motion filed with the court on July 2.)
ULA’s arguments for dismissal mirror those in the Air Force’s motion filed with the court early last week. SpaceX, ULA claims, lacks standing since it is not an “interested party” in the case since it is not yet certified by the Air Force to perform launches and thus isn’t an “actual or prospective bidder” for the EELV contract. ULA also argues that SpaceX was nearly two years later in filing its protest and thus “has plainly waived any right to protest the Air Force’s acquisition strategy and terms of the sole-source requirements contract.”
A review of public-private partnerships throughout U.S. history published by NASA concludes that they are neither a panacea nor a Pandora's box in finding ways to accomplish goals as diverse as building railroads or creating the telephone industry. Eminent space historian Roger Launius examined six case studies as possible analogs to using such partnerships in the space program.
NASA's "commercial crew" and "commercial cargo" programs, though referred to as "commercial," actually are public-private partnerships (PPPs) where the federal government and the private sector each bring resources to the table and the government assures an initial market for the services.
Virgin Galactic says it's partnering with the Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces to accommodate "Future Astronauts" while they wait to fly on SpaceShipTwo from New Mexico's Spaceport America, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) to the north. Monday's announcement heralded what's likely to be several tourism deals focused on Virgin Galactic's suborbital space trips. The Las Cruces hotel already is upgrading its facilities to accommodate tourists who will be paying as much as $250,000 for a four-day spaceflight package. World Class Gourmet, which is headed by Chef Tatsu Miyazaki, will handle the catering at Spaceport America, Virgin Galactic said.
SpaceUp Founder, SD Space Co-Founder, GeekDad contributor and Future Martian Chris Radcliff joins us to talk about future Martian habitats and what they will look like. Will we have domes? Underground habs? What will our future on Mars look like?
After a string of technical and weather-related delays, SpaceX engineers in Cape Canaveral are targeting liftoff of a Falcon 9 rocket Monday with six machine-to-machine Orbcomm communications satellites designed to refresh the company's data relay network in low Earth orbit.
The satellites will help Orbcomm clients track ships, trucks, cargo containers, remote oil and gas infrastructure, weather buoys, research stations and other assets.
Liftoff is set for 9:21 a.m. EDT (1321 GMT) from Cape Canaveral's Complex 40 launch pad. The launch window extends to 11:54 a.m. EDT (1554 GMT).
NASA and Orbital Sciences said Saturday they believe that weather and technical issues are behind them and will be ready to launch a Cygnus cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station on Sunday.
Mission managers gave approval Saturday afternoon for the launch at 12:52 pm EDT (1652 GMT) Sunday of an Antares rocket on the Orb-2 commercial cargo mission to the station. That launch has been pushed back for two days after weather delayed launch preparations this week at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at Wallops Island, Virginia.
SpaceX announced Friday (July 11) that the Air Force has certified that the company's Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket has successfully completed three flights. That is one of the steps required before SpaceX can be awarded contracts from the Air Force for launches within the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program. Separately, on Wednesday it received approval from the FAA to conduct launches from a new launch site it plans to build in Texas.
The Air Force decision comes at a time when the SpaceX-Air Force relationship is rather strained. The company is suing the Air Force because it awarded a block-buy contract to United Launch Alliance (ULA) last year for 36 EELV cores on a sole-source basis rather than allowing SpaceX to compete. The Air Force and the Justice Department filed a motion last week asking the U.S. Court of Federal Claims to dismiss the suit.
In the coming months, Europe’s space community will have to admit it must prepare to pay a high price for a major strategic error. For decades, European Space Agency (ESA)-member states and industrial contractors maintained an outdated structure to develop, produce and market the heavy-lift Ariane booster. Europe acquired a largely dominant market share, despite the former USSR’s ambitions. Then came SpaceX, a brand-new player, which is simply revolutionizing the commercial space launch scene.
The FAA has given its environmental approval for a proposed Texas launch site for SpaceX, one of the last milestones before the company makes a decision on a new commercial launch facility.
The FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA/AST) issued Wednesday its “Record of Decision” on the proposed launch site on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, east of Brownsville and just north of the Mexican border. The decision came at the end of a long environmental impact assessment of the proposed facility, which SpaceX would use for commercial launches of its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles. The FAA had released the final environmental impact statement (EIS) report in late May.
A bill introduced Thursday by two members of the House Science Committee seeks to promote commercial asteroid ventures, including securing property rights for resources extracted from asteroids by American companies.
The American Space Technology for Exploring Resource Opportunities in Deep Space (ASTEROIDS) Act of 2014, HR 5063, was introduced Thursday by Reps. Bill Posey (R-FL) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA), members of the House Science Committee. The relatively short bill (about four and a half pages in the copy provided by Posey’s office late Thursday, since the bill is not yet posted on Congress.gov) would direct the president, through the FAA and other agencies, to “facilitate the commercial exploration and utilization of asteroid resources to meet national needs,” “discourage government barriers” to asteroid resources ventures, and promote the right of American companies involved in those activities to both explore and utilize asteroids as well as transfer and sell them.
WASHINGTON — Bigelow Aerospace has hired former NASA astronauts Kenneth Ham and George Zamka to form the cornerstone of the private astronaut corps the North Las Vegas, Nevada, company will need to maintain and operate the inflatable space habitats it plans to launch some time after 2017.
With a decision on the next phase of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program expected as soon as next month, companies with funded awards from the program’s current phase, Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap), are approaching some of the final milestones of those agreements. For at least two of the companies, though, those efforts may not be done until next year.
ULA’s filing with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims follows a similar motion by the Air Force seeking to derail SpaceX’s lawsuit, which was originally filed April 28. In its June 30 filing, the Air Force said SpaceX lost its right to sue because it did not challenge the service’s original notice of intent to award the sole-source contract, issued in 2012, within the allotted window.
Last week, startup launch vehicle developer Firefly Space Systems formally announced its first rocket: Firefly Alpha. The two-stage vehicle uses liquid oxygen and methane propellants in pressure-fed configurations. While the second stage uses a conventional bell-shaped nozzle, the first stage features a “plug cluster aerospike” design, using aerodynamics rather than a nozzle to direct the exhaust. The vehicle will be able to place up to 400 kilograms into low Earth orbit.
“We are offering small satellite customers the launch they need for a fraction of that, around $8 or 9 million – the lowest cost in the world,” claimed Firefly CEO Thomas Markusic in a company press release. “It’s far cheaper than the alternatives, without the headaches of a multi manifest launch.”
With the rise of a range of private-sector entrepreneurial firms interested in pursuing space commerce, the process whereby their efforts might be incubated, fostered, and expanded comes to the fore as an important public policy concern in a way never before present in the Space Age. In the United States we are witnessing the convergence of several powerful economic forces, including the need to restore American capability to reach low-Earth orbit (LEO) for the servicing of the International Space Station (ISS) and the rise of a hospitality/tourism/entertainment industry interested in space.
Through these case studies, we explore how to apply more effectively already-tested models of government support for commercial activities, as well as the interactions of both the public and private spheres in a new opportunity zone in space.