NASA requirements have been developed over decades, through lessons learned designing, developing, testing, and operating spacecraft and rockets. NASA has taken this experience and developed a comprehensive set of requirements and standards that commercial crew transportation systems will need to address during the current and upcoming verification and certification efforts. NASA has categorized these requirements and standards into three general types:
Type 1 requirements: Partners must meet the NASA requirements as written;
Type 2 requirements: Partners can either choose to adopt the NASA requirements and standards or propose an alternate that meets or exceeds the NASA document; and
Type 3 requirements: Partners do not need to formally adopt the NASA document; rather, NASA documentation forms an integral reference based on our human and non-human spaceflight experience.
This is a significant change to traditional practices where all NASA requirements and standards were Type 1. Allowing our commercial partners to propose and use alternatives enables significant cost efficiencies to be realized and provides a high level of freedom and flexibility in the design process. The flexibility incentivizes innovation, which has been a hallmark of all of NASA’s commercial spaceflight endeavors.
When NASA owns and operates the systems, as in traditional spaceflight endeavors such as the Space Shuttle, it is appropriate for contractors to meet all of the agency’s requirements and standards as written. This approach ensures that NASA essentially gets exactly what it needs, and it minimizes interface issues.
In contrast, NASA will not own or operate the commercial crew systems—our industry partners will. NASA has found that most aerospace companies have internal standards that are just as good if not better than NASA’s. Also, the companies have the responsibility of managing the hardware interfaces. Thus, allowing the companies to use their own standards during the design process is an appropriate approach, and it eliminates costly rework and enables the companies to innovate in meeting NASA’s requirements. NASA must approve any alternative standards and requirements through a rigorous review process, thereby maintaining the agency’s focus on high quality and lessons learned.This is one of the many innovative features NASA is employing in its commercial spaceflight activities. These features will ensure NASA and our partners develop safe, reliable, and cost-effective space transportation systems.