Thursday, January 19, 2012

Forbes: Can Commercial Space Bank on NASA Contracts?

The business magazine Forbes takes a look at commercial space and raises the question, "Can Commercial Space Bank On NASA Contracts?"

There are two principal issues. First, uncertain budgets and launch market commitments make NASA an unreliable customer, causing large R&D investments to be very risky. Second, working with NASA imposes contract complexities, schedule delays and added costs that jeopardize business viability. This is particularly true in regard to design control over manned mission flight safety provisions.

The original premise was that private industry can build and operate space transportation vehicles more rapidly, cheaply and flexibly than can government, opening a new era of spaceflight. But the big rub is that while this may be very true, they cannot do so the “government way”. Accordingly, companies are reportedly pushing back against NASA rules establishing how their vehicles must be designed rather than how they must perform. This is analogous to authorizing the Federal Aeronautics Administration to certify the design of airplanes- not just certifying their airworthiness.

Well worth your time to read in its entirety.

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