Friday, July 1, 2011

Audit: NASA Making "Sustained Progress" on Commercial Crew

An audit released yesterday by NASA's Office of Inspector General concluded that "NASA is making sustained progress toward acquiring commercial crew transportation services" but "faces multiple challenges and risks as it expands its Commercial Crew Transportation program." Those challenges are:

  • Modifying NASA’s Existing Safety and Human-Rating Requirements for Commercially Developed Systems.
  • Selecting an Acquisition Strategy for Commercial Crew Transportation Services.
  • Establishing the Appropriate Insight/Oversight Model for Commercial Partner Vehicle Development.
  • Relying on an Emerging Industry and Uncertain Market Conditions to Achieve Cost Savings.
  • Managing the Relationship Among Commercial Partners, the FAA, and NASA.

The audit concludes:

Following retirement of the Space Shuttle Program in summer 2011, the United States will no longer have its own capability to access low Earth orbit and the International Space Station, and instead will depend upon Russia to provide crew transportation services. Currently, the only other option in development is the Government-owned and -operated Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Space Launch System that the 2010 Authorization Act set as a goal to be fully operational by December 31, 2016. However, NASA has indicated that this system is unlikely to be ready by that date. Consequently, NASA faces an imperative to nurture development of a U.S. commercial transportation service to reestablish the nation’s ability to access low Earth orbit and the Space Station as soon as possible.

The audit notes that "we are not making specific recommendations for corrective action," meaning the audit found nothing wrong requiring action by management.

The OIG's web site has an introductory video by Assistant Inspector General Jim Morrison, who looks quite uncomfortable ...

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