Rep. Ralph M. Hall [D-TX] made the following comments today after releasing an exchange of correspondence with NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe regarding NASA's planned termination of the X-38/CRV (Crew Return Vehicle) project:
"I am releasing these letters so that the space community will be better informed about NASA's plans and intentions. While many of the responses in the Administrator's letter are vague and cite ongoing reviews, there are several items of note in his letter:
No quantitative analysis of the costs and benefits of X-38/CRV alternatives was conducted prior to the decision to terminate the program.
2010 is estimated to be the "earliest" availability date for a Crew Transfer Vehicle (CTV) to support crew return functions on the International Space Station.
No estimates of the cost to develop and operate a CTV are provided.
NASA has no plans to purchase Soyuz crew return vehicles from Russia. The letter does not address the limits on Russian cooperation imposed by the Iran Nonproliferation Act, nor does it describe how a crew return capability will be provided for either a 3-person or larger crew-size Station once the Russian obligation to provide Soyuz vehicles ends in 2006.
Recent reports notwithstanding, NASA is confident that Russia will continue to meet its commitments to supply Progress and Soyuz vehicles.
NASA now estimates the cost of a CRV fleet at $3 billion, which constitutes a massive increase from the $1.3-1.4 billion estimate consistently provided to Congress prior to the Administrator's termination announcement. NASA's new position is that a CRV would not be available until 2008, which appears to be due to OMB's decision last year to defer work on the program rather than any technical or management problems. Mr. O'Keefe's June, 2002 announcement of the cancellation of the X-38/CRV program did not raise cost growth or schedule as factors in that decision. It seems clear to me that the new cost and schedule estimates for the CRV are not based on a thorough technical analysis, but rather on a desire to portray CTV development in a more favorable light.
Given the importance of an assured crew return capability for the Space Station, NASA needs to move expeditiously to undertake these analyses in a transparent manner and to clarify its plans to Congress and the space community."