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Sept. 15 House of Representatives Hearing on Space Flight Includes Misconceptions; Industry Group Offers Clarity

Press Release From: Next Step in Space Coalition
Posted: Tuesday, September 22, 2009

image Sept. 15 House of Representatives Hearing on Space Flight Includes Misconceptions; Industry Group Offers Clarity

Commercial procurement of Space Station crew transport is an alternative to buying seats from Russia, and does not compete with NASA's Constellation Program

WASHINGTON, D.C. - September 22, 2009 - Next Step in Space, a coalition of businesses, organizations, and people working toward ensuring the future of human spaceflight in the United States, today issued a white paper titled "Acquiring U.S. Commercial ISS Crew and Cargo Services Creates New Industry in LEO, Enables Program for Exploration Beyond" to help clarify issues discussed at a September 15th hearing of the House Committee on Science & Technology on "Options and Issues for NASA's Human Space Flight Program."

"Some comments made at the House hearing last week incorrectly suggested that the Augustine Committee's recommendation to procure crew services to the International Space Station would necessarily be in lieu of further development of NASA's exploration program to travel beyond Earth orbit," said Bretton Alexander, President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. "However, these two programs are complementary, not competitive. As former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin has pointed out numerous times, the Constellation Program is designed and optimized for missions beyond low-Earth orbit, not for Space Station servicing."

With the Space Shuttle program nearing its end of life, the most economical options for transportation to the International Space Station (ISS) are: 1) sending taxpayer dollars to buy seats on the Russian Soyuz, or 2) investing in the American commercial space industry.

"The American public has begun to realize that we are about a year away from sole-sourcing our human spaceflight needs to Russia," said Elon Musk, CEO and CTO of Space Exploration Technologies. "Fortunately numerous companies within the commercial space sector have been raising and investing private capital to develop the capability to service the ISS, and we are confident that we can be ready to transfer crew within a few years."

Among other items included in the white paper, the Next Step in Space coalition clarified that:

  1. Commercially procured crew and cargo services to the ISS do not compete with the Constellation Program, which is under development to explore beyond low-Earth orbit (LEO).
  2. NASA, Congress and numerous Presidential Directives have consistently supported acquiring commercial crew and cargo services to the ISS.
  3. Commercially procured crew transportation is an alternative to paying Russia to launch our astronauts to the ISS.
  4. As pointed out at the Senate hearing the following day, even if NASA receives significant additional funding, only commercially procured crew and cargo services to the ISS allows its extension to 2020.
  5. The lower cost of commercially acquired transportation to the ISS will allow NASA to focus its resources on the Constellation program for exploration beyond LEO.
  6. Commercially acquired crew and cargo services will use existing launch vehicles and those already under development, which the U.S. government already entrusts for carriage of high-value national security and scientific assets.
  7. NASA's Commercial Crew/Cargo (COTS) program is on budget and has met numerous schedule milestones.


"The best strategy for our economic growth, U.S. competitiveness and the long-term success of NASA is to support the commercial procurement of crew transportation for LEO, which will also enable NASA astronauts to once again leave Earth's orbit to new worlds beyond," said Mark Sirangelo, Chairman of Sierra Nevada Space Systems. "We were pleased to see the Augustine Committee's endorsement of a robust program for commercial human space flight, and look forward to continuing our work with NASA to ensure that jobs are created here in the United States, not overseas." For a full copy of the "Acquiring U.S. Commercial ISS Crew and Cargo Services Creates New Industry in LEO, Enables Program for Exploration Beyond" White Paper, please visit www.NextStepInSpace.com.

About The Next Step in Space

The Next Step in Space is a group of businesses, organizations, and people working toward ensuring the future of commercial human spaceflight in the United States. Investment in commercial space will allow for full utilization of the International Space Station, enable NASA to focus its efforts beyond low-Earth orbit, and ensure that taxpayer dollars are reinvested in the U.S. and not spent overseas. Visit us at: www.nextstepinspace.com. Become a fan and show support for commercial spaceflight on the Next Step in Space Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/nextstepinspace and follow on Twitter @NextStepinSpace.

It is time to take the Next Step and invest in a robust, commercial human space flight development program.

Media Contact:
Next Step in Space  
Jo Anne Yau (Phillips & Company)
(512) 659-0150
jayau@phillipscompany.com

Acquiring US Commercial ISS Crew and Cargo Services Creates New Industry in LEO, Enables Program for Exploration Beyond

Commercial procurement of Space Station crew transport is an alternative to buying seats on Russian Soyuz vehicles, and does not compete with NASA's Constellation Program

Introduction

Next Step in Space is a group of businesses, organizations, and people working toward ensuring the future of commercial human spaceflight in the US. Investing in commercial space allows for the full utilization of the International Space Station (ISS), reduces our dependence on paying Russia for crew transportation -- allowing taxpayer dollars to be invested in the US and not spent overseas -- and enables NASA to focus its efforts and resources to explore beyond low Earth orbit (LEO).

NASA's acquisition of US commercial crew and cargo services will lead to expansive new opportunities in space and ultimately lead to the creation of an entire new industry in low-Earth orbit. As evidenced below, since 2004 it has been the express and codified policy of the United States government to develop crew transportation for missions beyond LEO and commercially acquire crew transportation services to support the International Space Station (ISS). Based on these policies, such as National Security Presidential Directives NSPD-31 and NSPD-40, the NASA Authorization Acts of 2005 and 2008, and public statements and official documents from NASA, numerous member companies of Next Step in Space have been raising and investing capital to develop commercial cargo and crew transportation capabilities. This activity is not in competition with NASA's Constellation Program, since that program is designed for exploration beyond low- Earth orbit. (Since the Next Step in Space is focused on enabling commercial human space flight to sub-orbital and low-Earth orbit destinations, the Next Step is neutral on the future of the Constellation Program, which is being developed for missions beyond LEO and ultimately to return to the Moon and on to Mars.)

Accordingly, the Next Step in Space is providing the following background information to help clarify issues discussed by the September 15th House Science Committee hearing on the Augustine Committee's Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans. Many misconceptions raised were subsequently clarified in the U.S. Senate hearing the next day (September 16th) by individuals such as Senator Bill Nelson of Florida. Additional context is provided below:

Key Points

1. Commercially procured crew and cargo services to the International Space Station (ISS) do not compete with the Constellation Program, which is under development to explore beyond low-Earth orbit (LEO):

  • The most recent Presidential Space Exploration Policy Directive confirms that commercial transportation in LEO and the Constellation Program beyond LEO are complementary, not competitive. The Presidential directive tells NASA to "develop a new crew exploration vehicle [Orion] to provide crew transportation for missions beyond low Earth orbit," and then goes on to add that NASA should "acquire crew transportation to and from the International Space Station, as required, after the Space Shuttle is retired from service" and "pursue commercial opportunities for providing transportation and other services supporting the International Space Station..." (National Security Presidential Directive/NSPD-31, 2004, emphasis added)

  • Former NASA chief Mike Griffin, who developed the current NASA program, confirmed that, "Constellation is not focused on or designed for maximum efficiency in LEO operations." (Jan '09) Griffin has also stated, "The use of the CEV [Orion] in LEO will inevitably be more expensive than a system designed for the much easier requirement of LEO access and no more [e.g., commercially procured crew transport]." (Jan '08)


2. NASA, Congress and numerous Presidential Directives have consistently supported acquiring commercial crew and cargo services to the ISS:

  • In NASA's 2008 Authorization bill, signed into law, Congress required that "NASA shall make use of United States commercially provided International Space Station crew transfer and crew rescue services to the maximum extent practicable...[and] limit, to the maximum extent practicable, the use of the Crew Exploration Vehicle [Orion] to missions carrying astronauts beyond low Earth orbit." Further, Congress asked NASA to "issue a notice of intent, not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, to enter into a funded, competitively awarded Space Act Agreement with 2 or more commercial entity for a Phase 1 Commercial Orbital Transportation Services crewed vehicle demonstration program."

  • In NASA's FY2008 NASA Appropriations Report, Congress "encourage[d] NASA to consider exercising its option for the Commercial Cargo Capability (COTS) Capability D (crew transport) as soon as possible from unallocated, uncommitted, or otherwise available funds..."

  • * The current U.S. National Space Policy Directive, NSPD-49, states, "It is in the interest of the United States to foster the use of U.S. commercial space capabilities around the globe and to enable a dynamic, domestic commercial space sector. To this end, departments and agencies shall use U.S. commercial space capabilities and services to the maximum practical extent."

  • The 2005 National Security Presidential Directive/NSPD-40 declared that the government will "refrain from conducting activities with commercial applications that preclude, deter, or compete with U.S. commercial space transportation activities, unless required by national security."

  • In 2009, NASA proposed and Congress appropriated $50 million of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to "be used to develop and demonstrate commercial human spaceflight capabilities."

  • NASA's public budget documents include the following chart (Figure 1) which further confirms that "Commercial Crew/Cargo for ISS" has been part of NASA's current exploration architecture for many years:




Figure 1. Public NASA budget documents show "Commercial Crew/Cargo for ISS."

  • Official NASA documentation going back to 2005, as shown in Figure 2, also made it clear that NASA's preference was to acquire commercial crew/cargo space transportation services and that "CEV variants [Orion] for ISS or additional International Partner capabilities are backup alternatives." (emphasis added)




Figure 2. NASA Commercial/Crew Cargo Presentation, Nov. 2005,

3. Commercially procured crew transportation is an alternative to paying Russia to launch our astronauts to the ISS:

  • Currently we are paying Russia $51 million per seat to launch astronauts to the Space Station. In the midst of record high unemployment, the US is off-shoring this capability indefinitely. Furthermore, with no domestic alternative on the horizon, the United States is vulnerable to Russian price increases, and the Space Station's future viability is threatened by a single Russian technical failure or political issue.

  • As mentioned above, official NASA documentation makes clear that commercial U.S. services for the Space Station are NASA's first choice, stating that "CEV variants [Orion] for ISS or additional International Partner capabilities are backup alternatives." (NASA Commercial Crew/Cargo Presentation, Nov '05, page 2, emphasis added.)

  • Former NASA chief Mike Griffin testified to Congress that, "Purchasing cargo and crew transportation services domestically is NASA's preferred method to meet the needs of the ISS." (Nov '07)


4. As pointed out at the Senate hearing on September 16, even if NASA receives significant additional funding, only commercially procured crew and cargo services to the ISS allows its extension to 2020:

  • The Augustine Committee's summary report stated that, even with a $3 billion budget increase, it is not possible to extend the Space Station using options that do not involve commercial procurement of ISS services. There was confusion on this issue at the House hearing on September 15, but the misconception was corrected during the Senate hearing on September 16, chaired by Senator Nelson of Florida. Additionally, not all options have funds for research and development (R&D) and expanded scientific utilization of the Space Station.

  • The Next Step Coalition, in providing the above information, is not advocating for any particular exploration architecture beyond Low Earth Orbit, since Next Step is focused on suborbital and low Earth orbit operations.


5. The lower cost of commercially acquired transportation to the ISS will allow NASA to focus its resources on the Constellation program for exploration beyond LEO:

  • Former NASA administrator Mike Griffin, who developed the current program, has stated that "the use of the CEV [Orion] in LEO will inevitably be more expensive than a system designed for the much easier requirement of LEO access and no more [i.e., commercially procured crew transport]. This lesser requirement is one that, in my judgment, can be met today by a bold commercial developer, operating without the close oversight of the U.S. government, with the goal of offering transportation for cargo and crew to LEO on a fee-for-service basis." (Jan '08)

  • Griffin's statement is supported by the Augustine Committee's summary report, which adds that "[commercially-procured crew services] could provide an earlier capability at lower initial and lifecycle costs than government [cost-plus procured systems] could achieve." (Aug '09)

  • Mike Griffin further emphasized the potential for savings when he stated, "Utilizing the market offered by the International Space station's requirements for cargo and crew will spur true competition in the private sector, will result in savings that can be applied elsewhere in the program, and will promote further commercial opportunities in the aerospace sector." (Aug '05, emphasis added)

  • Griffin has also stated, "enabling the development of commercial space transportation to LEO can be met if we in government are willing to create a protected niche for it. To provide that niche, we must set the requirements for the next-generation government spaceflight system at the lunar-transportation level, well above the LEO threshold... We can create a clear financial incentive for commercial success, based on the financial disincentive of using government transportation to LEO at what will be an inherently higher price." (Jan '08)


6. Commercially acquired crew and cargo services will use existing launch vehicles and those already under development, which the US government already entrusts for carriage of high-value national security and scientific assets:

  • Since 2002, the Delta IV and Atlas V launch vehicles have been successfully launching multi-billion-dollar national security assets, upon which the safety of our nation and our armed forces relies. The Atlas family of rockets has enjoyed 88 consecutive successful launches, with Atlas V, a leading contender for commercially procured crew transportation, having completed 17 consecutive successful launches. After completing development, SpaceX's Falcon 1 has had two successful flights in a row. The first flight Falcon 9 has been erected at Cape Canaveral and the first demo flight is scheduled to take place before the end of this year.

  • Companies and organizations of all sizes are supporting the use of more commercially oriented contracts for providing crew transportation services. Advocates of this approach include larger companies such as United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed with 4000 employees, as well as medium sized companies such as Orbital Sciences (2700 employees), Sierra Nevada Corporation (1600 employees) and SpaceX (800 employees), all companies that have flown hardware in orbit. Over 50 companies recently participated in NASA's Commercial Crew Development Industry Day on August 13, 2009 at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston.

  • Commercial spaceflight operators are capable of meeting NASA's human rating requirements. For example, as the first company to be provided with a Space Act Agreement with a commercial crew option (Capability D), SpaceX prepared and submitted its Human Rating Plan per NASA Procedural Requirement (NPR) 8705.2A in September, 2006 as part of its first Systems Requirement Review milestone.

  • Finally, all US space transportation systems are already manufactured by commercial industry. The Space Shuttle is manufactured by US industry and the majority of its operations are handled by the United Space Alliance, a joint ventured owned by Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The primary difference between the Space Shuttle operations and the commercial approach is the fixed-price (as opposed to cost-plus) nature of the contracting and the degree of autonomy provided to industry to invest in and control the product and service provided to the government. The Augustine Committee did significant due diligence on the US commercial providers and unanimously supported this approach.


7. NASA's Commercial Crew/Cargo (COTS) program is on-budget and has met numerous schedule milestones:

  • At the request of Congress, in June 2009 the GAO released a report concluding that "NASA's management of the COTS [Commercial Orbital Transportation Services] project has generally adhered to critical project management tools and activities and the vast majority of project expenditures were for milestone payments to COTS partners. NASA has established fixed-price, performance-based milestones in its agreements with commercial partners and partners are only paid once the milestone has been successfully completed." (emphasis added)

  • Furthermore, the GAO study found that, "the vehicles being developed by commercial partners Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) and Orbital Sciences Corporation (Orbital) through the COTS project have become essential to NASA's ability to fully utilize the space station after its assembly is completed and the space shuttle is retired in 2010... SpaceX successfully completed its first 14 development milestones on time and is in the process of testing, fabricating, and assembling key components... Orbital has successfully completed 7 of 19 development milestones thus far."



Conclusion

NASA's acquisition of US commercial crew and cargo services will lead to expansive new opportunities in space and ultimately lead to the creation of an entire new industry in low-Earth orbit. The record clearly shows that Administration policy, Congress, and the Augustine Committee agree that the US needs to minimize the human spaceflight gap, that the ISS should be extended, that the Constellation Program should remain focused on beyond LEO exploration, and that commercially-procured services for LEO transport should be the primary option for ISS crew/cargo servicing. Moreover, commercially-procured LEO transport is actually the only way that NASA can both extend the ISS to 2020 and also conduct a robust exploration program.

Based on these express and codified policies, the commercial space industry has been raising and investing capital to develop the commercial cargo and crew transportation capabilities to serve this US government market. This activity is not in competition with NASA's Constellation Program, since that program is designed for exploration beyond low-Earth orbit. (Since the Next Step in Space is focused on enabling commercial human space flight to sub-orbital and low-Earth orbit destinations, the Next Step is neutral on the future of the Constellation Program, which is being developed for missions beyond LEO and ultimately to return to the Moon and on to Mars.)

The decision to continue with Constellation is independent of the decision to invest further in commercial crew services, which has been expressly supported by Presidential directives since 2004 and codified into law by multiple Congresses. Hundreds of millions of private investment dollars have been raised and invested based on these laws and policies, which were recently endorsed by the Obama Administration's blue-ribbon Committee on U.S. Human Space Flight Plans.

It is time to take the Next Step and invest in a robust commercial human space flight development program.

About Next Step in Space

Next Step in Space is a group of businesses, organizations, and people working toward ensuring the future of commercial human spaceflight in the US. Investment in commercial space will allow for full utilization of the International Space Station, enable NASA to focus its efforts beyond low- Earth orbit, and ensure that taxpayer dollars are reinvested in the US and not spent overseas. Visit us at: www.nextstepinspace.com. Become a fan and show support for commercial spaceflight on the Next Step in Space Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/nextstepinspace and follow on Twitter @NextStepinSpace.

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