Thursday, April 26, 2012

House Bill Could End Commercial Crew Participation

Florida Today reports that the House Appropriations Committee bill for NASA's Fiscal Year 2013 budget would order the agency to end its commercial crew competition.

Key House lawmakers say NASA should pick one company to fly astronauts to the International Space Station instead of prolonging a competition to provide the service, a proposal a local official said would be bad for the Space Coast.

The article quotes Space Florida president and CEO Frank DiBello as criticizing the proposed legislation:

“What I view as Congressional obstruction of free market principles almost always leads to higher costs to orbit, decreased launch rates and less research, innovation and job creation,” said Frank DiBello, president of Space Florida. “It’s in NASA and the nation’s best interests to keep the competition going as long as they possibly can within budget realities.”

Jeff Foust of Space Politics comments:

The report is not the first time House appropriators have proposed strictly limiting competition in future phases of the commercial crew program. In a hearing in March, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), chairman of the CJS subcommittee, asked presidential science advisor John Holdren if it made sense to combine the existing commercial crew competitors into a single “star team”. Later last month Wolf also quizzed NASA administrator Charles Bolden on limiting the commercial crew program to no more than two companies.

The Commercial Spaceflight Federation issued a statement that diplomatically told the House committee to mind its own business:

We believe NASA has carefully designed a program that maintains competition, and preserves safety, through the development and certification process, and that uses the appropriate contracting mechanism at each stage. It is best to leave decisions on program management to the NASA human spaceflight professionals who have access to all the information and have worked closely with all the competing companies. If the language in the report were applied to the current round of competition, it would result in a significant delay in restoring U.S. human access to orbit.

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