NASA's draft request for proposal (RFP) outlines a contract that will be awarded to multiple companies that provide a complete end-to-end design, including spacecraft, launch vehicles, launch services, ground and mission operations and recovery. The Integrated Design Contract (IDC) of up to $1.61 billion will run from July 2012 through April 2014.
"This IDC effort will bring us through the critical design phase to fully incorporate our human spaceflight safety requirements and NASA's International Space Station mission needs," said NASA Commercial Crew Program Manager Ed Mango. "We look forward to strong U.S. industry response."
Click here to access the draft RFP documents.
UPDATE September 20, 2011 6:30 AM EDT — Reading through the executive summary, I found important dates to note.
- All required milestones must be completed by April 30, 2014.
- "Multiple work packages for development testing or certification activities" are scheduled for delivery between May 1 to October 31, 2014.
- Crew Transportation System (CTS) certification must be achieved "no later than the end of FY 2016."
And perhaps the most important of all is the final sentence in the document:
The Government intends to award contracts to two or more Offerers.
Which means we'll have redundancy in American human space flight for the first time in history.
No longer will the United States rely on only one type of crew vehicle.
UPDATE September 20, 2011 7:45 AM EDT — Well, strike my last.
In another document, it states that "a single contractor will be chosen" in the second phase.
I.14 NFS 1852.217-71 PHASED ACQUISITION USING DOWN-SELECTION PROCEDURES (MAY 2000)
(a) This solicitation is for the Commercial Crew Program’s acquisition to facilitate the development of a U.S. commercial crew space transportation capability with the goal of achieving safe, reliable and cost effective access to and from low earth orbit (LEO) including the International Space Station (ISS). The acquisition will be conducted as a two-phased procurement using a competitive down-selection technique between phases. In this technique, two or more contractors will be selected for Phase 1. It is expected that the single contractor for Phase 2 will be chosen from among these contractors after a competitive down-selection.
(b) Phase 1 is for the Integrated Design and early development of a Crew Transportation System. Phase 2 is for the Development, Test, Evaluation and Certification of an Integrated Crew Transportation System.
(c) The competition for Phase 2 will be based on the results of Phase 1, and the award criteria for Phase 2 will include successful completion of Phase 1 requirements.
(d) NASA will issue a separate, formal solicitation for Phase 2 that will include all information required for preparation of proposals, including the final evaluation factors.
Paragraph (g), however, offers a glimmer of hope for some redundancy:
Notwithstanding paragraph (a), the competition in Phase 2 may result in the award of multiple contracts if budget allows.
UPDATE September 20, 2011 1:00 PM EDT — Reuters via MSNBC.com on the draft proposal:
The U.S. space agency will be looking for complete systems — launchers, spaceships, mission operations and ground support — to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station by the middle of the decade, a draft solicitation released on Monday shows.
The money will supplement investments that private companies are making to develop commercial space transportation services.
President Barack Obama has requested $850 million for NASA's commercial crew development initiative, or CCDev, for the year beginning October 1. The Senate Appropriations Committee last week offered $500 million.
UPDATE September 21, 2011 — More media reports on the draft RFP:
Florida Today "NASA Set to Fund Space Taxi Systems"
Space.com "NASA to Pay $1.6 Billion for Private Space Taxi Flights"