35 Companies Responded To NASA Call For Input, Nearly $6
Billion May Be Available
NASA says that it will be supportive of commercial companies
who seek to build human-rated space vehicles, and hopes to be able
to offer $5.8 billion to back up those words.
But, the agency says, Congress may not be as willing to shift
funds from NASA to private business.
At an industry event in Washington, DC August 19th, NASA's
commercial crew planning chief Phil McAlister said the agency hopes
to fund the four best concepts with $5.8 billion. "This is going to
be a challenging program for both NASA and the private sector," he
said, "and if somebody stumbles along the way we would like to have
other providers that hopefully we can rely on."
Fox News reports that McAlister said if Congress tells NASA to
invest less in Commercial Crew, it will have to re-evaluate its
plans. But he said "competition is a very strong driver."
SpaceX Dragon Artist's Concept
At the event, NASA officials said they have not yet defined the
human-rating requirements for NASA astronauts flying in a
privately-built spacecraft, but that they would work closely with
the industry to do so. After that, though, they would take a
"hands-off" attitude towards the development of the spacecraft as
they have with the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services
There were a couple of caveats to NASA's position. First, they
were mostly mum about the issue of indemnification against third
party claims in the event of a catastrophic malfunction. They also
said the agency would be looking for complete, 'end-to-end'
integration ... from launch complex to crew training and vehicle
and crew recovery. Private companies would be expected to reimburse
NASA for the use of government-owned facilities.
NASA Orion Artist's Concept
Some in the industry said it is vital that, if Congress decides
to rely on Commercial Crew, that it not also fund NASA as a direct
competitor to their efforts. Commercial Spaceflight Federation
President Brett Alexander used the example of the Orion crew
vehicle which Congress seems to favor, saying it is over-designed
and too costly for the routine "taxi" missions of ferrying crew and
cargo to ISS.