Late last week NASA released the annual report by the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP), highlighting the key safety-related issues the independent panel sees with the space agency’s programs. This year’s report highlights in particular NASA’s commercial crew efforts, worrying that a lack of funding and non-traditional contracting mechanisms could increase risks to crews that will fly on these vehicles.
“Of all of the topics reviewed by the ASAP this year, the one receiving the most time and attention was unquestionably the Commercial Crew Program (CCP),” ASAP noted in its report, calling attention to it also in cover letters that accompanied the report to the NASA Administrator, the Speaker of the House, and the President of the Senate. ASAP expressed concern about the use of Space Act Agreements, as it has in the past, although the panel agreed with NASA’s use of fixed-price contracts for the first phase of the certification process. However, ASAP argued that the second, and much larger, phase of the certification process should be done with more conventional cost-plus contracts than fixed-price ones, as “we believe both schedule and safety would be at risk in a fixed-price environment because of the relative inability to defer or apply resources to problem areas that will inevitably develop.