A Closer Look at SpaceX’s CCiCAP Milestones

Dragon berthed at the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

SPACEX COMMERCIAL CREW PROGRAM

Overview

Company: SpaceX
Location: Hawthorne, Calif.
Spacecraft: Dragon
Type: Capsule with service module
Crew Capacity: 7
Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
CCiCAP Funding (if all milestones met): $440 million
CCiCAP Term: 21 months
Previous CCDev Funding: $75 million
Previous COTS Funding: $396 million
Total COTS, CCDev and CCiCAP Funding (if all milestones met): $911 million

CCiCAP Milestones

SpaceX has 14 milestones to meet over the 21-month base period. The company will conclude the CCiCAP funding with an integrated critical design review in March 2014 followed by an in-flight abort test the following month.

The company has 15 optional milestones for which it would receive additional funding should NASA has money available. Almost all the details of these milestones are redacted for competitive reasons. However, we do have titles on two of them.

Optional Milestone 11: Orbital Flight Test with Crew (2015)
Optional Milestone 15:  Flight to ISS with Non-NASA Crew (year redacted)

SpaceX Milestones
August 2012 – April 2014

 No.
 Description Date Amount
1.CCiCap Kickoff Meeting. SpaceX will hold a kickoff meeting at the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, CA, or a nearby facility to review the current state of existing hardware, processes and designs, describe plans for CCiCap program execution during both the base period and the optional period and lay the groundwork for a successful partnership between NASA and SpaceX.August 2012$60 Million
2.Financial and Business Review. SpaceX will hold a financial and business review to accomplish verification of financial ability to meet NASA’s stated goals for the CCiCap program by providing NASA insight into SpaceX finances.August 2012$20 Million
3.Integrated System Requirements Review (ISRR). SpaceX will hold an integrated System Requirements Review (ISRR) to examine the functional and performance requirements defined for the entire CTS for the Commercial Crew Program design reference mission per section 3.1 of CCT-DRM-1110, as well as to evaluate the interpretation and applicability of each requirement.October 2012$50 Million
4.Ground Systems and Ascent Preliminary Design Review (PDR). SpaceX will hold a Ground Systems and Ascent Preliminary Design Review (PDR)  to demonstrate that the overall CTS preliminary design for ground systems and ascent meets all requirements with acceptable risk and within schedule constraints and that it establishes the basis for proceeding with detailed design.December 2012$35 Million
5.Pad Abort Test Review. SpaceX will hold a Pad Abort Test Review to demonstrate the maturity of the pad abort test article design and test concept of operations.March 2013$20 Million
6.Human Certification Plan Review. SpaceX will hold a Human Certification Plan Review to present the Human Certification Plan. This Human Certification Plan Review will cover plans for certification of the design of the spacecraft, launch vehicle, and ground and mission operations systems. May 2013 $50 Million
7.On-Orbit and Entry Preliminary Design Review (PDR). SpaceX will hold an On-Orbit and Entry Preliminary Design Review (PDR) to demonstrate that the overall CTS preliminary design for orbit, rendezvous and docking with the ISS, and entry flight regimes meets all requirements with acceptable risk and within  schedule constraints and that it establishes the basis for proceeding with detailed design. July 2013$35 Million
8.In-Flight Abort Test Review. SpaceX will hold an In-Flight Abort Test Review to demonstrate the maturity of the in-flight abort test article design and test concept of operations. September 2013$10 Million
9.Safety Review. SpaceX will hold a Safety Review at the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, CA, or a nearby facility to demonstrate that the CTS design is progressing toward meeting the Commercial Crew Program’s safety goals. October 2013$50 Million
10.Flight Review of Upgraded Falcon 9. SpaceX will conduct a review of a launch of the upgraded Falcon 9 launch vehicle demonstrating the operation of enhanced first-stage M1D engines, stage separation systems, enhanced second-stage MVacD engine and mission-critical vehicle telemetry during flight. Demonstration of the upgraded launch vehicle will serve as a risk reduction for the planned inflight abort test. November 2013$0
11.Pad Abort Test. SpaceX will conduct a pad abort test of the Dragon spacecraft. The scenario where an abort is initiated while the CTS is still on the pad is a design driver for the launch abort system as it dictates the total impulse and also requires parachute deployment in close proximity to the ground. December 2013$30 Million
12.Dragon Primary Structure Qualification. SpaceX will conduct static structural testing of all Dragon primary structure components to ultimate load factors, as applicable. This series of tests will validate the Dragon structure’s ability to maintain integrity during all driving load cases as well as verify the accuracy of math models used to analyze the Dragon structure. Individual tests will be designed to exercise all credible failure modes and minimum margin areas. January 2014 $30 Million
13.Integrated Critical Design Review (CDR). SpaceX will hold an Integrated Critical Design Review (CDR) to demonstrate that the maturity of the CTS design is appropriate to support proceeding with full-scale fabrication, assembly, integration and test. March 2014$30 Million
14.In-Flight Abort Test. SpaceX will conduct an in-flight abort test of the Dragon spacecraft. The in-flight abort test will supplement the pad abort test and complete the corners-of-the-box stress cases. The in-flight abort scenario represents a Dragon abort while under propulsive flight of the launch vehicle during the worst-case dynamic loads on the CTS. April 2014$30 Million
TOTAL:$440 Million

  • JohnHunt

    $60 million for a kickoff meeting?

    $0 for Flight Review of Upgraded Falcon 9?

    All steps in very round numbers?

  • JohnHunt

    So CCiCAP is only to demonstrate capability, not the actual delivery of astronauts. Will there be yet another program to actually deliver crew? These programs are beginning to add up to a significant chunk of change. Also, I understand that the payments for CRS have some of the highest $/kg in history.

  • reader

    Indeed. $60M is one hell of a expensive meeting.

  • warshawski

    @John Hurst If you look at the optional milestones they include manned tests. ALso the flight review of the Upgraded Falcon 9 will be part of the launch review of a comercial satelite, this is an advantage of using the same rocket for manned and unmanned missions.
    If you are complaining about the cost of this most of it is NASA safety reviews and even including the full cost of COTS to this program (which you should not as the funding was for cargo not crew) SpaceX still gets less than $1Billion over 7 years which is less than the annual cost for Orion on its own without SLS. Put another way the entire SpaceX CCiCAP is about the same cost for a single un-manned demo flight of Orion on a temporary non-man rated rocket.
    This is a great program and on completion SPaceX will be able to send people to LEO from 2015, 2 years before NASA needs them, which is good planning by NASA as the dates are bound to slip as they always do in any development project.

  • It’s interesting to compare the approaches between SpaceX and Boeing. Boeing has a $38M wind-tunnel test campaign (wow!), and some ground tests to support engine modification and development. SpaceX is going to do two flight tests (three if you count the no cost engine upgrade demo flight review). That’s a pretty big difference in the quality of the product knowledge being gained by NASA under each program. I like wind-tunnel tests as much as the next guy, but it’s awful nice to clock those full-up system performance hours.

  • Anonymous

    @Warshawski – If you look at the optional milestones they include manned tests.

    Yes, I noticed that. But since they are optional, then doesn’t it seem like NASA would necessarily be guaranteed to end up with actual crew deliveries. So, is there yet another “Crew Resupply Service” program following?

    @Warshawski – SpaceX still gets less than $1 Billion over 7 years which is less than the annual cost for Orion on its own without SLS.

    Good point.

    @Warshawski – This is a great program…

    If you think so, would you consider signing my petition for a follow-on “Lunar COTS” program? That would be at: LunarCOTS.com. Thanks.

  • JohnHunt

    It looks like they tend to front-load the payments. In two months from now (6% of the way into the program) they will have received 30% of the total payments.

    @Warshawski – If you look at the optional milestones they include manned tests.

    Yes, I saw that. But since those milestones are optional, will there be a follow-on program specifically to guarantee “Commercial Crew Resupply” to the ISS?

    @Warshawski – SpaceX still gets less than $1Billion over 7 years which is less than the annual cost for Orion on its own without SLS.

    Good point.

  • Alan

    @JohnHunt, in answer to your question, yes, there is planned to be a follow-on contract for commercial crewed service to the station. This current CCiCap round using Space Act Agreements is intended to bring a number of competitors (2 1/2 after Congressional haggling) up to System Critical Design Review stage, i.e. to the point where they have all the plans they need to go ahead and build the vehicle and its supporting infrastructure. At that point, NASA will select one or more of the designs to go ahead and build their full system. This will not be done with Space Act Agreements but via a more conventional contract, with more NASA oversight, especially with respect to safety requirements (in fact Congress wanted this approach for the current phase, but NASA pushed back after the funding was cut to ensure they could still have multiple competitors).
    After this second development phase there should be at least one system capable of sending astronauts to ISS. NASA will then award service contracts for commercial flights, as they are now doing with SpaceX for cargo and will shortly do for Orbital once Cygnus has made a successful test flight to ISS.
    So still a way to go yet.

  • Jim Hillhouse

    Warshawski, as the Dragon/Falcon 9 system is not yet crew-rated, which one of the CCiCap milestones for SpaceX, optional or otherwise, include crewed tests?

    And yes, a Delta IV H and Orion cost more to launch than Dragon/Falcon 9. But then we’re talking about launching 3x the payload than Dragon/Falcon 9. Also, Orion’s ETF-1 is…well, perhaps, a one-time flight (there might be more) to test Orion for conditions that Dragon is not designed or built to handle. If more Orion/Delta IV H flights are envisioned, the initial development costs of Orion/ETF-1 could be amortized.

    Speaking of amortizing R&D, wouldn’t it be helpful to compare apples-to-apples, that is non-amortized flight costs of systems?

  • Jim Hillhouse, read the documents.

    Optional funded milestones will further reduce risk, leading to an orbital demonstration flight with non-NASA crew in mid-2015 and achieving full ISS integration leading to the first crew Dragon flight to the ISS later that year. During the optional period [redacted] followed by an orbital flight test with non-NASA crew [redacted] 2015. This flight will consist, at a minimum of a 3-day mission to a 200-nm orbit performed with a minimal crew of non-NASA personnel. [redacted] Our milestones in the optional period culminate in a flight to the ISS with a non-NASA crew in December 2015. emphasis original, pp 41

    SpaceX plans to fly people as part of the risk reduction preceding NASA’s formal “crew rated” certification.

  • Warshawski

    @ Jim Hillhouse the Dragon/Falcon Heavy has greater payload and could be flown for less than the Orion/Delta IV.
    The additional capability or Orion is its ability to sustain crew for slightly longer peroids. Dragon is designed for high speed re-entry from Mars and probably has better high speed capability that Orion. Unfortunately Orion is not capable of Asteroid or Mars mission without a habitat module so that means the only mission Orion could do that Dragon could not do without an additional habitat module is a moon flyby. For the longer mission if Dragon may need slightly more capability in the habitat module but not sufficient to justify the billions in Orion development costs.
    I do not think the billions in development costs are worth a moon fluby, I would prefer the money spent on developing the deep space habitat, propulsion, landers, surface habitats etc.

  • Jim Hillhouse

    jstults, I guess you missed that the milestones under the current round of CCiCap end April 2014. So you bet the 2015 flight test is optionally funded. Very optionally funded, as in SpaceX hopes it gets the money to fly crewed in 2015 type optional funding. Ed Mango has been very public in his acknowledgements that at current and projected funding levels, there will be no completion of human-rating, which would enable a crew, NASA or not, to fly before 2017. So where did the mid-2015 non-NASA flight idea come from? You’ll have to say ask SpaceX, who wrote the its CCiCap milestones and filled-in the dollar amounts for NASA.

    Warshawski, Falcon 9 Heavy doesn’t exit, save on paper, so any payload cost numbers are estimates, nothing more. And given SpaceX’s history of having trouble meeting its own numbers, I would be very reluctant in taking any time/cost/performance numbers too seriously until the Falcon 9 Heavy is actually flying.

    Dragon, more specifically its heat shield, is not designed for >24k mph reentry from Mars. To accept the mass penalty for such a heat shield–you do recall from school that friction drag is a function of the square of velocity–for LEO missions would be to accept a payload penalty unnecessarily. In aerospace, you don’t do that as a matter of practice. Nor is Dragon’s guidance and control Mars mission reentry ready. Before Dragon is cleared for BEO missions, it will have to undergo its own version of Orion’s ETF-1 mission.

    Neither Orion nor any other spacecraft can reasonably achieve prolonged missions without the use of a habitat module. But Orion is better suited for such missions given that it has twice the pressurized volume of Dragon at 691 ft3 vs. 353 ft3. In fact, at 316 ft3, Orion’s habitable volume is 90% of the total pressurized volume of Dragon.

  • Andy

    Jim Hillhouse, I think your information about Dragon’s heat shield is incorrect. Here is one source where Elon Musk says it is capable of withstanding Mars re-entry velocities and I recall others. Perhaps the heat shield is no longer reusable after a Mars re-entry.

    http://www.nasa.gov/exploration/commercial/cargo/spacex_heatshield.html

    The Captchas were especially brutal today – third time’s the charm.

  • NASA asked all the CCiCAP applicants to submit proposals that laid out plans up through demonstration flights to ISS. The space agency then negotiated with the winners to determine what work could be done under the funding available for CCiCAP. The rest of the milestones were considered optional and redacted in the public versions of the Space Act Agreements for competitive reasons.

    The companies can go beyond their base milestones and complete optional ones if NASA has funding available and approves the additional work. This was done on CCDev.

    SpaceX’s optional milestones were all redacted, except for the titles of the the two orbital demonstration flights in 2015. The company also included the following passage in its proposal. Note the language in the first paragraph. It talks specifically about optional work that would enhance the possibility of SpaceX being able to conduct the flights in 2015.

    Work planned for the optional period provides high confidence in achieving an orbital crewed demonstration flight in 2015.


    Optional funded milestones will further reduce risk, leading to an orbital demonstration flight with non-NASA crew in mid-2015 and achieving full ISS integration leading to the first crew Dragon flight to the ISS later that year.

    During the optional period, [REDACTED], followed by an orbital flight test with non-NASA crew 2015. This flight will consist, at a minimum, of a 3-day mission to a 200-nn orbit performed with a minimal crew of non-NASA personnel. Our milestones in the optional period culminate in a flight to the ISS with a non-NASA crew in December 2015. At the conclusion of this optional period, all development, test and evaluation of the Dragon-Falcon 9 crew transportation system would be complete, allowing NASA to proceed seamlessly with immediate certification and the commencement of regular NASA crew transportation services to the ISS.

    Whether SpaceX can make this schedule is certainly open to question given past delays on COTS. We’ll know more as CCiCAP rolls along.

  • It would be exciting if the redacted work that increase the chances of doing a crewed flight test has anything to do with the Bigelow Aerospace launch on their manifest in 2015. Since they are using one of their other launches as a zero cost milestone for the engine upgrade, maybe there’s a zero cost milestone to do with their work with Bigelow?

  • Jim Hillhouse

    My info on Dragon’s heat shield may be wrong. The problem is, there’s no transparency by NASA in what the taxpayers are paying for, something that will certainly change if a new President is elected. Still, I can’t take Elon’s pronouncements too seriously since he seems perennially in “sales” mode and has never made good on a promise. Take a look at the delta between the original and completed COTS milestone dates, QED. Or the EM test that Dragon failed, a test that SpaceX assured NASA was unnecessary yet failed spectacularly when it was conducted.

    The reason for my skepticism is that it would be very unusual for a spacecraft optimized for LEO cargo missions to accept the mass penalty of a heat shield designed for a much different re-entry profile. At roughly 6 mT payload to LEO, it’s not as though the Falcon 9/Dragon has payload mass margins to spare. And recall that originally Orion had different reentry systems, including different heat shields, designed for LEO and BEO missions because “…heating rates may be up to five times more extreme than rates for missions returning from the International Space Station.”

    http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2009/apr/HQ_09-080_Orion_Heat_Shield.html

    Maybe I am wrong. Someday that question will be answered as part of a BEO mission certification test of Dragon that takes it through the same test that Orion will undergo in ETF-1.