Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Commercial Space Must Be a "Priority"

Shortly after NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver warned that commercial crew funding delays only result in jobs going to Russia, Aviation Week reports the same warning has come from members of NASA's Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel.

The panel notes CCDev is transitioning away from the initial Space Act Agreements that brought emerging providers, along with traditional aerospace participants, to the program and toward more traditional development contracts. Those agreements, while giving NASA greater insight into the development, will in turn transition into service agreements intended to initiate launches of astronauts to the International Space Station by late 2016.

But the goals of establishing reliable transportation with adequately managed risk at a competitive price depend on multiple service providers. Without sufficient funding, NASA will be forced to delay its development objectives or refocus the funding it has on a single provider, undermining reliability and cost effectiveness, ASAP member John Marshall says.

UPDATE October 26, 2011Florida Today reports on the potential funding shortfall.

The post-shuttle “gap” in astronaut launches from Florida could extend to 2017 if Congress doesn’t boost funding for commercial space taxis, NASA warns.

The U.S. will depend on Russia for access to the International Space Station until one or more commercial vehicles are ready.

But lawmakers so far have offered hundreds of millions less than NASA requested for the commercial effort in 2012, with six times as much going to a deep space exploration system that won’t fly a crew for a decade.

If development of commercial spacecraft is slowed, reliance on the Russians — at a cost of roughly $60 million per seat — would be prolonged.

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