NASA Releases Redacted Commercial Crew Contracts

Launch_America_Commercial_Crew
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA released redacted versions of the contracts the agency signed with Boeing and SpaceX in September 2014 to begin the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability phase of final development and certification work. The contracts outline goals and obligations that both NASA and the providers agreed to, however, the focus of the agency’s involvement is not just in milestones but in the day-to-day work the NASA team is performing. The agency’s efforts revolve around understanding the providers’ designs and ensuring progress is being made toward meeting safety and performance requirements before crew flight tests and missions to the International Space Station.

– Boeing-CCtCap-Contract here.

– SpaceX-CCtCap-Contract here.

  • ThomasLMatula

    And so the return to cost-plus begins as I expect both firms will start to ask that they will be reimbursed for additional costs resulting from NASA micro-management as the compliance costs start to increase beyond the nuisance level…

  • Michael J. Listner

    If NASA is going to put its people on board these spacecraft, it only makes sense they will want to make sure both companies are meeting NASA’s specifications. The illusion that spaceflight can be made cheap with existing technologies. i.e. chemical rockets, is just that: an illusion. Spaceflight can be made less expensive, but it’s never going to be cheap.

  • windbourne

    Lol.
    U 2 crack me up.
    U continue to say that NASA will be the death of spacex or that spacex will never fly, be cheaper than others, etc.
    And yet, all of this continues to prove you wrong.

    Now Boeing is expensive but that is due to such massive profits, combined with large management overhead,and one of the absolute worthless ceo’s that we ever had.

    But spacex will keep on ticking proving u wrong.

  • Michael J. Listner

    Now I’m beginning to recognize the irony of the moniker “windborne”.

  • Jim R

    Cheap and expensive are relative, so the illusion is meaningless, what we need is hard numbers. With reusability there’s no physical law preventing us from getting a few hundred dollars for kg to LEO, using chemical rockets.

  • windbourne

    Exactly right.

  • ThomasLMatula

    So how many inspectors does NASA have ensuring the commercial airlines NASA employees fly on are safe? And that they meet NASA specifications?

    This is suppose to be commercial human spaceflight. The FAA AST should be determining if the systems are safe for commercial service, not NASA.

  • Hug Doug

    NASA is the customer, so SpaceX is meeting their requirements. if some other company decided to contract with SpaceX to launch people, then they’d have to meet their requirements.

    the FAA does have a lot of safety regulations that must be followed also.

  • DavidR2015

    It probably makes sense to do single customer development on a cost plus basis, and then operate the vehicles on a fixed price basis. If vehicles were to be developed fixed price, or entirely privately funded, then in the first case, a risk would occur that more work than initially expected would be required, and in the second case, a risk of customer under utilisation would exist, potentially meaning that a return on investment would not be made.
    The cost plus development / fixed price operations model could last for a few decades yet.

  • Valerij Gilinskij

    The principle of “cost-plus” for this phase of work was defined from the beginning. And Boeing and SpaceX called their sum to achieve the goal, and NASA, analyzed the amount and agreed with them. The requirement for additional funding would delay the work, and each of the two firms interested in becoming first.

  • ThomasLMatula

    So is Southwest Airlines a customer for NASA. Does that mean that Southwest has to allow NASA inspectors to review its aircraft before NASA employees are allowed to fly on them? And imagine if every government agency demanded a similar right? I expect the FAA would put them in their place quickly.

    But moving on, suppose we end up in a situation where SpaceX is carrying tourists to the ISS along with NASA astronauts on the Dragon to the ISS. What this means is that now two separate agencies will be inspecting and reviewing the flight. Same Dragon capsule, same launch vehicle, same destination but with two separate and independent certification processes from two different agencies that each have veto power over the launch. That government bureaucracy at its worst…

    Sadly this was always the big risk with CCP, that NASA would push aside and step all over the FAA AST right to be the only regulator of commercial flights into space. Clearly there is nothing commercial about commercial crew if NASA is going to use the same micromanaging it used for cost plus contracts. It is also clear it is just becoming another government contract, no different than NASA had with USA to operate the Space Shuttle.

    What NASA should be doing, if it was truly interested in the commercial development of space, is work with the FAA AST to ensure the FAA AST licensing process enables a safe flight, not stepping on their authority.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Actually what I see is worst. Just as with Orbital Sciences, NASA will assimilate SpaceX into its bureaucratic approach to spaceflight turning it into a NASA Contractor, just like the other firms it has assimilated over the years. That would indeed be very sad.

  • ThomasLMatula

    David,

    Actually that is where the cost plus model originated, in the build up to World War II. Before that it was all fixed priced. But the need to push the technology envelope with long range bombers and new technology like jet engines, and the governments heavy involvement in the work involved, resulted in cost plus becoming the dominate model. What we see here is the slow drift back to it.

  • Valerij Gilinskij

    “Spaceflight can be made less expensive, but it’s never going to be cheap.”

    How cheap can cost space flight on existing technologies? Why flight of the new spacecraft can not cost ten times less than the old? The most expensive in the modern spaceship – technology. But the technology is already there – why the spacecraft must be expensive?

    Another thing reusable spacecraft. This almost no one did. Space shuttle was required serious repair after every flight. But first cars also need to be repaired after each trip.

  • Hug Doug

    If Southwest had some sort of contract to fly parts and supplies for NASA, then yes, i’m sure they would have some requirements from NASA they would have to comply with, and would likely get inspected by NASA people to make sure those requirements are indeed met.

    you are making a false equivalency with your comparison. your analogy breaks down because they’re not the same sort of requirements.

    i’ll give you a more concrete example: non-NASA launches on the Falcon 9 are significantly cheaper than launches bought by NASA. why? because NASA has a lot more requirements that SpaceX has to fulfill to launch for them. NASA is paying more for SpaceX to meet its requirements.

    if SpaceX launches tourists to the ISS, that launch will still have to be approved by the FAA, and docking to the ISS would have to be approved by NASA, but the flight itself would be non-NASA, and the customer’s requirements would be what matter for that flight.

    currently, however, NASA is the only customer, so NASA’s requirements are what matter.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    NASA has reported, and Gersteinmaier gave testimony to the senate sub-committee, that these are “firm, fixed” contracts.

  • Valerij Gilinskij

    Based on the reasons named by you the final phase of the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) from the beginning to be funded on the principles of “cost-plus”.

    However, the successful experience of COTS programs showed that it was possible to financeCCtCap on the principles of a fixed price. Greater importance to accelerate the work was adequate funding for the program in the early stages. Then the firms participating in the program will receive profit in the commercial flights. This is an important experience for future programs.

  • Michael J. Listner

    That is not an accurate analogy, but you already know that.

  • windbourne

    If that were to happen, I agree with you that it would be a disaster.
    However, it has never been NASA folding contractors into them. It was always contractors lobbying CONgress to do various things (esp costs+), to increase their profits.
    I do not think that SpaceX will be following that model. As it is, NASA and DOD are less than 1/3 of their business.

  • ThomasLMatula

    But what is NASA astronauts are also on the same flight. There are 4 seats available.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Yes, space is different…

  • ThomasLMatula

    But we are not talking about a dedicated flight carry only cargo charter service like COTS. We are talking passengers. That is what commercial crew is about, passengers. And NASA passengers could well be mixed in with non-NASA passengers in flights to the ISS as is true on all Southwest flights.

    So again if commercial crew is suppose to be commercial, why is it being treated as if it is not commercial?

    I understand the legal issues, but commercial crew was advertised moving away from the traditional micromanagement model of NASA spaceflight to a commercial one, a break from the past. But instead this is looking more and more like business as usual with NASA micromanaging the process.

    The only difference is that it is still fixed price, but I expect that may change when Boeing and SpaceX see their profits being eroded by NASA micromanagement of it.

  • Hug Doug

    Yes, we are talking about a dedicated, chartered flight. That’s what the commercial crew transportation to the ISS basically is. and, btw, That is why your analogy falls apart, you’re trying to compare two different things.

    the commercial crew to the ISS is not set up like a “taxi” service or a commercial airline flight. very early on there was some discussion of whether it would be more like a taxi or if NASA was buying the flight, and it is more like the latter.

    i don’t think NASA is micromanaging, and this is very much a break from the past. they have basically said “here is a list of requirements” and the providers can do whatever they want to meet them. you’ll notice that the CST-100 and the Dragon V2 are very different spacecraft.

    the fixed price aspect will not change, NASA has said that repeatedly, both in PR statements and testmiony before Congress.

  • Hug Doug

    if Southwest has a 4 seat airplane and NASA flies 4 astronauts on it, that’s basically a chartered flight, isn’t it? so NASA can tell Southwest where to fly it, at what altitude to fly, what kind of peanuts to put in the snack compartment, etc.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Yes, they have said that, but it looks with this new announcement they have started down a slippery slop. We will see if it stops with the few “additional” requirements or continues. It is still a long way before they enter service.

    But this also illustrates the problems of the NASA monopoly, the get to rewrite rules whenever they wish and the firms must follow them, or else.

    I expect that when Commercial Crew is done the vehicles will be about as commercial as C-5A was. Recall the Lockheed’s costs were supposed to be reduced my making it a commercial cargo aircraft, much like the C-130 was. But there were no buyers for the L-500 after it was optimized for government use. Today its all but forgotten…

  • ThomasLMatula

    But my question was what if there are two astronauts and two commercial, private, travelers to the ISS?

  • Hug Doug

    huh? what new announcement are you talking about??

    do you mean the commercial crew milestones? this isn’t new… we all knew this was coming. they did the exact same thing for the commercial cargo program.

    did you somehow miss that??

  • Hug Doug

    this is not cost plus!

    i don’t know why you think it is.

  • Hug Doug

    then NASA will pay for the seats that it’s using, and the other two will pay SpaceX for their seats.

  • windbourne

    If this is truly cost+, that is a bad start to this.
    I have no issue with helping these companies develop something we need. BUT, the idea was to have them on fixed budgets and that they were to also invest. So far, Boeing has put in NOTHING.
    In fact, if this is turned into cost+, then it is obvious that SNC should have been picked over Boeing. They were willing and happy to do fixed bid.

  • windbourne

    Why do you believe that this is cost+?

  • windbourne

    yeah, but, just because a bureaucrat testifies to that, does not make it so.
    As it is, Gersteinmaier went against what the committee recommended for awards and put Boeing at the top.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Not the milestones, the level of increased monitoring.

  • ThomasLMatula

    And who will have final flight approval? NASA, FAA AST, Both?

  • ThomasLMatula

    Hug, no its not, but its going down the same slippery slope that resulted in fixed priced contracts being replaced with cost plus contracts in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. That is the point I am trying to make and you seem to be ignoring with your “Polly Anna” views on NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

    But I take a more historical view and I find little historical evidence of success with government subsidize development of commercial transportation systems no matter what you call it. Look at the SST effort. Look at the Princess Flying Boats. There are others… It will be nice if CCP is the exception, but that is not a given.

    And BTW there is nothing wrong with cost plus contracts if you are a government contractor like SpaceX and Boeing, they ensure profit when doing high risk development work. That is why aviation firms pushed for them in the late 1930’s and 1940’s when the U.S. was gearing up for WWII.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Its not Cost Plus, but its another step away from the COTS/CCP model the public was sold on in that direction. That is the point folks seem to want to ignore.

  • Hug Doug

    the FAA. they are the ones who issue launch / reentry licenses.

  • Hug Doug

    well, it’s not cost plus, and it’s not going in that direction.

    if Boeing / SpaceX has to spend 60 million to complete a milestone with an award of 30 million, they will still get just the 30 million.

    so i obviously don’t see any slippery slope here, and from my point of view your claims are absurd.

  • Hug Doug

    you claim that the milestones aren’t what you are talking about, but that’s all that was released. you’re contradicting yourself.

  • Michael J. Listner

    And being a passenger on a rocket isn’t akin to getting on a commercial airplane.

  • Vladislaw

    Same thoughts, NASA is not a regulartory agency, that is what the dept of transportation is for as far commercial transportation. NASA does not get to determine bicycles, motorcycles, cars, boats, planes hell commercial subs… NASA is buying a commercial service.. let the proper agency determine safety.
    Space is a place not a program.

  • Vladislaw

    being a COMMERCIAL passenger on a rocket is exactly akin to being a commercial passenger on any form of commercial transportation. Boats, sink, planes fall out off the sky, cars crash. Just different risks.

  • Vladislaw

    Same for a flight to a Bigelow Facility, there could be a mixed passengers on that also .. DOT handles transportation, not NASA.

  • Michael J. Listner

    I will agree with you when I can purchase a ticket without being a multimillionaire or a government employee. 🙂

  • Michael J. Listner

    When a government agency is the customer they can insist on having a say about matters of safety. NASA isn’t Wiley Coyote and they certainly won’t strap their astronauts to generic ACME rocket. 🙂

  • Michael J. Listner

    That’s exactly what Space X is: a government contractor as they will become a defense contractor once they are certified. Since taxpayer money is at stake, when you deal with the federal government and its various agencies you play by their rules.