Space Access 2010: NASA’s Commercial Reuseable Launch Vehicle Roadmap Study

XCOR's Lynx suborbital vehicle

Commercial RLV Technology Roadmap
Dan Rasky, NASA Ames

Study Overview

  • Commercial Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Roadmap Study
  • Working in cooperation with Air Force Research Laboratory and FAA
  • Rediscover heritage of NACA, which worked with the emerging aircraft industry

Study Focus

  • Identify technologies for future space access
  • 10x reduction in costs
  • Increased reliability and availability

Approach – NACA Style

  • Identify important technologies and government services available to commercial customers
  • Avoid expensive and risky government funded RLVs
  • Leverage work done by commercial companies
  • Build a broad technology base

Space Access Categories

  • Reusable suborbital vehicles
  • Reusable two-stage orbital vehicles
  • Expendable and partially reusable (SpaceX, Orbital Sciences Corporaiton)
  • Advanced vehicle concepts

Information Gathering Activities

  • NASA/USAF began by soliciting feedback from commercial space industry
  • One-on-one interviews with 19 companies at USAF/NASA CRASTE 2009 conference in Dayton last October; interviewed a total of 29 companies to date of all sizes
  • Website where companies could submit documents for review


  • A fair amount of needs span the entire industry

4 Categories of Support Needs

  • Business Support
  • Government Support
    • Access to facilities for testing, etc.
    • Streamline Space Act agreements for facilities access
    • Range assistance for test flights
    • Improved software
    • Access to government employees who are subject experts
  • Support on Specific Technologies

    • Propellants, cryogenic technologies, advanced avionics, materials, vehicle recovery, etc.
  • Integrated Flight Demonstrators

    • X-34 flight demonstrators – old NASA project – air frames still around, support tech dumped
    • Looking to see what they can get out of it.

Study Results

  • Initial roadmaps due in July 2010
  • Present results at Space Frontier Foundation NewSpace Conference at NASA Ames, July 23-25
  • Final roadmap to be completed in September 2010


1. This is the same-old same-old – NASA’s been talking about developing these technologies for 30 years.

Response: We are trying to avoid that situation again.

2. Will you have people evaluating proposals based on adherence to the roadmap as opposed to what individual NASA centers want to do?

Response: We certainly hope so.

3.  What is the reception within NASA to its embrace of commercial space options?

Response: Mixed reception, but more people are coming around. Exciting to take NASA engineers to SpaceX, where they see actual hardware being produced. He is rooting very much for SpaceX to succeed because if it is successful, then that will strengthen the case for this approach.