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Commercial Crew Planning Status Forum Questions & Answers
09.09.10
 

NASA's commercial crew team members answer questions asked during the Aug. 19, 2010, Commercial Crew Planning Status Forum. For more information on the forum, briefings for download, and complete video of the event, visit the Commercial Crew Planning Status Forum page.

Question: Does The NASA Commercial Crew Development Program (CCDP) envision itself as the certification authority for all manned spacecraft, both for NASA and commercial customers (i.e., as the FAA is for commercial aircraft)?

Answer: No. NASA will only be certifying commercial transportation systems for NASA personnel. The exact relationship between NASA and the FAA regarding other certifications has not been determined at this time.


Question: Is NASA going to be open to commercial system design and operations set to serve other markets -- rather than just optimized for the ISS crew transportation mission?

Answer: Yes. The framework that NASA is establishing for the commercial crew initiative will be designed to accommodate a diverse range of potential passengers and crew (e.g., NASA astronauts, international partner personnel, scientists, spaceflight participants) for a variety of reasons (e.g., science, research, ISS operations, tourism), including NASA personnel as crew or participants.


Question: Who are the prime contractor companies who can deliver the full-service crew transportation and when?

Answer: The competition envisioned for the commercial crew initiative will be open for any U.S. company that desires to bid. NASA is not pre-selecting companies and therefore cannot provide a list.


Question: What is the opinion of the international partners (Europe, Japan, Canada) about the commercial crew initiative? Should they participate in the commercial crew initiative?

Answer: NASA has not surveyed the International Partners for their opinions of the commercial crew initiative. However, the commercial crew initiative is designed to facilitate the development of systems that can: provide redundant crew access to the ISS, make the ISS more robust, reduce risk, and enable greater utilization.


Question: ISS researchers report that they prefer to rotate astronaut crews on 90 to 120 day intervals rather than the current 180 crew rotation intervals. More frequent rotation of ISS crews would provide more flight opportunities and a larger market to help close the business case and might help support two crew transportation providers. What is the status of discussions to rotate ISS crews more often?

Answer: While it is true that some researchers would prefer shorter rotations, others focusing on the affects of microgravity on the human system would prefer longer rotations. Certainly, a cost effective transportation system that allows (from a budget perspective) shorter rotations would provide options for a variety of mission durations. Ultimately the length of rotations will be determined by balancing the research needs, market needs, and budget.


Question: Is the new Commercial Crew Development Program going to reside in a new NASA Commercial Spaceflight Mission Directorate? It seems like the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate has a conflict of interest with commercial human spaceflight.

Answer: I don't perceive a conflict at all. The Commercial Crew initiative is already becoming an integral part of our exploration plan. We have an activity internal to the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, referred to as the HEFT, and it is a framework team looking at our architecture going forward out many, many years on how we're going to accomplish our deep space exploration mission. Commercial Crew provides the Earth-to-low Earth orbit transportation mode for one of the primary options. I don't forsee the need for a separate mission directorate, but I would anticipate an organization at some point that is focused on the developed program once approved. We'll stand that up the same way NASA stands up any normal program, and I forsee that fitting in very well with ESMD. That is where the COTS effort has been executed over the last four to five years, so the mission directorate has the benefit of that experience and would hope to leverage that.


Question: How will the new CCDPO divide roles and responsibilities between KSC and JSC?

Answer: The specific roles and responsibilities between KSC and JSC have not been determined at this time.


Question: Wouldn't it be more effective to close the manned space flight gap by funding COTS-D immediately?

Answer: There has been a great deal of effort over the last year applied to updating and consolidating NASA’s human rating requirements for use by commercial providers. NASA has decided it would be more effective to allow companies to update their previous COTS-D proposals utilizing this new information and progress made over the last four years. Competing for new commercial crew development partners will also meet NASA’s objective of investing in a portfolio of multiple potential commercial providers.


Question: In the effort of eliminating Type one standards and incorporating them in the requirements document, will the new requirements be broken out as individual stand alone requirements vice just citing to comply with the aforementioned type one standards?

Answer: The goal is to have individual requirements and we have made significant progress in that effort. While we probably will not completely achieve that goal in the next draft of the requirements, we will continue to work in that direction.


Question: The President's budget proposal of about $6B over about 5 years appears to support development assistance of four to six commercial partners. With Congress headed toward a budget that at best provides about $1.3 B over 3 years, how many commercial partners do you expect that funding level to support through development?

Answer: It is impossible to say without knowing the full funding profile. The bill referred to in the question only covered the first three years. It would be possible for NASA to fund the same number of commercial partners, at a reduced level, and then provide the additional funding in the out years. Or, NASA could select fewer partners, or extend the development phase.


Question: Is the construct and name of "NASA Human Rating" being replaced by "Crew Transportation System Certification"?

Answer: Yes. The commercial systems are expected to fly non-NASA missions and the term ‘human rating’ could be interpreted as a certification for all missions. The NASA certification will apply to NASA missions only.


Question: Do you have a NASA-self-made LEO access system reference estimation (cost/time frame) to build (and operate) a LEO-Access?

Answer: No, NASA has not developed an official cost estimate for a government developed crew transportation system.


Question: How much would NASA actually invest for commercial crew transport?

Answer: The President’s FY2011 Budget Request allocated $5.8B to invest in commercial crew transportation systems. Some of that budget would be required to fund NASA’s program office and related items. But, the vast majority would be available for investment with commercial partners.


Question: Is the crew transport by China or other foreign countries an alternative if there are no domestic company solutions?

Answer: NASA plans to rely on the Russian Soyuz system for crew transportation unless and until a domestic company can provide that capability. NASA has full confidence in the ability of the Soyuz to meet ISS crew transportation needs in the interim.


Question: Do you see this as a national effort? What do you see, if any, as the role of current NASA centers and contractors from across the country, such as with Shuttle, Constellation, and Ares, who were already involved in both facilitating current ISS access and furthering human space exploration beyond LEO?

Answer: Yes, this activity will be open to all commercial entities nationally. Partnering throughout industry is encouraged and expected. For NASA participation, we see an Agency-wide effort, although on a much smaller scale than the programs listed since we see the governmental role very different for commercial crew. We plan to take advantage of the expertise within NASA and make use of lessons learned in support of this program.


Question: How many NASA civil servants (or FTEs) are planned to be dedicated to insight and oversight of each commercial partner?

Answer: The number of FTE have not been determined at this time and will vary based on the maturity of the system, the level of experience of the commercial partner, and the risk associated with the specific system designs.


Question: NASA's Commercial Crew & Cargo Program at JSC led the successful COTS and Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) initiatives. With these successful programs establishing the basis and confidence in the prospect of commercial human spaceflight, are they going to be a part of the new NASA Commercial Crew Development Program, led now by KSC?

Answer: Yes. The Commercial Crew & Cargo Program is currently assisting KSC with the planning of the Commercial Crew Development Program and plans to transition personnel to the new program upon completion of the COTS and CCDev projects.


Question: How does the current CCDev activity play into the future commercial crew development procurement? Will there be a separate follow-on CCDev procurement in the near future?

Answer: The CCDev activity was a critical first step for NASA and industry to partner towards the development of commercial crew systems. The progress made by the commercial partners and the lessons learned from the CCDev efforts will be leveraged for the future commercial crew activity. NASA has not finalized its specific strategy for commercial crew, but a follow-on to CCDev is a possibility.


Question: With the center of gravity of most commercial crew development efforts being with the crew spacecraft development, why is KSC, a launch vehicle and launch operations center, now leading this new commercial crew development program?

Answer: There were several factors that went into the decision to locate the Program Office at KSC. However, it should be noted that JSC will be extensively involved in the commercial crew initiative, and other NASA centers are expected to be involved as well.


Question: How closely will private partners work with NASA while drawing up their certification safety reports, as well as making new vehicle or plan revisions if initial drafts are unacceptable?

Answer: We are still working through those details. Ideally, NASA would be available to provide advice and recommendations to help the partners succeed.


Question: Will there be a limit to any private partner attempts to draw up safety certification plans before NASA steps in or passes on a partnership?

Answer: We are still working through those details. Ideally, NASA would be available to provide advice and recommendations to help the partners succeed.


Question: It was clearly stated that NASA will be the final judge of safety and certification for these commercial efforts. Did we also hear that the tech authorities (including safety) will be part of the embedded teams at the CP site?

Answer: The technical authorities will have an integral role in the crew transportation system certification. However, NASA’s current plans do not have the technical authorities as part of the embedded teams at the CP sites.


Question: Can you provide any additional insight on the role of probabilistic risk assessments (PRAs) for the integrated safety design and analysis effort. Will there be an overall LOC/LOM requirement, and the requirement to perform PRAs?

Answer: We are still working the details of the integrated safety design analysis. The items you mention are all being discussed and considered.


Question: Since commercial companies are required to contribute financially to develop and operate their own systems transportation system, how much are commercial partners expected to contribute in cost sharing with NASA?

Answer: NASA is not going to dictate the amount of industry investment that should be provided. Each proposal will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.


Question: Will there be a recorded version of this forum available on the web for future reference?

Answer: Yes, you can view the video here.


Question: Would you please tell us how to download the presentation charts again?

Answer: You can download the presentation charts here.


Question: Collura said that the program office would not broker NASA services. Lindenmoyer said that one of the important things he did was to find and make NASA resources available to commercial. Are these statements contradictory?

Answer: The commercial crew program office intends to facilitate the needs of the commercial partners to the greatest extent practical, but will not be in a position to manage those interactions agency-wide. We will provide assistance in locating appropriate organizations across the NASA centers to begin discussions, as requested and necessary. We are diligently attempting to keep a level playing field amongst partners by not becoming a ‘middleman’ in the use of NASA facilities/services. This is similar to the COTS program approach.


Question: Maria Collura said that CPs should individually broker facility needs from the different NASA centers. We have observed that several CPs are asking for NASA engineering services. NASA centers (KSC and JSC) have been recently marketing their services at conferences stating they can be free or less expensive than commercial. Many times these type services could be provided by industry - especially small businesses such as ours. Why is NASA competing with small businesses for these services?

Answer: NASA provides reimbursable services to the commercial sector when it has unique goods, services or facilities which can be made available to a partner in a manner that does not interfere and is consistent with NASA mission requirements. It is NASA policy that the Agency refrain from conducting activities that preclude, discourage or compete with U.S. commercial space industry. Each center has or is in the process of generating a listing of their capabilities and facilities available for customer use. They are also working diligently on commercial pricing that will consider multiple users, which may provide for reductions in costs. There is also the expectation that if NASA has an identified NASA program anchor tenant (i.e. HLLV), the commercial partner may only be charged the direct costs associated with their use use of that facility.


Question: Since in order for commercial companies to own and operate their own transportation systems, they have to contribute financially to their system's development, what approximate minimum level of commercial investment is expected in cost sharing with NASA?

Answer: NASA is not going to dictate the amount of industry investment that should be provided. Each proposal will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.


Question: How much skin is required [percentage] in this game?

Answer: NASA is not going to dictate the amount of industry investment that should be provided. Each proposal will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.


Question: All realistic business plans include NASA as the anchor tenant. You have several times indicated that the 2015 services availability date may be soft. If the date slides to the right, what is the effect on the business plan since US participation in ISS will only be extended to 2020?

Answer: NASA does not currently have any proposals or business plans from industry for commercial crew systems. Thus, it is not possible to determine the effect a slippage in the availability date will have on a particular commercial partner’s business plan.


Question: Ed Mango just said that CPs should utilize NASA services - not just facilities. Again, will this de-facto competition with small business continue?

Answer: NASA provides reimbursable services to the commercial sector when it has unique goods, services or facilities which can be made available to a partner in a manner that does not interfere and is consistent with NASA mission requirements. It is NASA policy that the Agency refrain from conducting activities that preclude, discourage or compete with U.S. commercial space industry. Each center has or is in the process of generating a listing of their capabilities and facilities available for customer use. They are also working diligently on commercial pricing that will consider multiple users, which may provide for reductions in costs. There is also the expectation that if NASA has an identified NASA program anchor tenant (i.e., HLLV), the commercial partner may only be charged the direct costs associated with their use use of that facility.


Question: What responsibility will NASA have to validate the business plans of companies proposing commercial crew systems to ensure that those systems will be available to NASA and at an affordable price?

Answer: NASA plans to perform due diligence on the business and financial aspects of all proposals for commercial crew systems. NASA plans to have a sufficient understanding of the business/financial risks associated with each system so that we can determine whether the CPs have viable technical approaches and can realistically close its business case taking into account anticipated Government and commercial markets. However, it should be noted that we will not be evaluating CPs on availability and price until we compete the service phase.


Question: In respect to closing the gap. Can the panel please explain how it makes any sense to refuse to start the COTS-D option when the contractor says they are ready. Especially considering the overall low funding requested.

Answer: There has been a great deal of effort over the last year applied to updating and consolidating NASA’s human rating requirements for use by commercial providers. NASA has decided it would be more effective to utilize this new information and the progress made over the last four years by reopening competition in this area. Competing for new commercial crew development partners will also meet NASA’s objective of investing in a portfolio of multiple potential commercial providers.


Question: Is NASA open to partnering with and investing in an entity like Bigelow Aerospace that does not intend to develop a rocket, but is interested in meeting NASA's goals to develop commercial crew markets beyond the ISS? Specifically, could NASA invest in the launch of the Bigelow Sundancer space station as a non-ISS target for the other commercial crew vehicles to test?

Answer: The President’s FY2011 Budget Request requested funding to support development of a commercial crew transportation capability.


Question: Trace Sutton (Alvarez and Marsal): So on the Type 2 requirements, for the companies that come forward with substitute requirements, would that remain proprietary or confidential between the commercial partner and NASA or will that be shared across the other partners?

Answer: That's a very good question. One of the reasons we broke out those type twos as a separate document is so that we can maintain proprietary data and those would be unique to each partner. We would not share them across contractors.


Question: Bart Jansen (Gannett Newspapers): I wondered if there was yet a ballpark figure for how much it might cost to - for the facilities cost - to launch commercial crew to the space station. And also whether there's any concern - as I understood it, the fixed costs for the shuttle program were part of the reason to argue against additional flights, and I wondered if the cost of paying for facilities at Kennedy Space Center might discourage people from launching there or send them elsewhere?

Answer: Unfortunately, we don't have a specific cost per facility at this time. Like I mentioned, we're going through the process now of determining what those costs are. It's anticipated that we’ll have an idea of what it would cost per facility in the October time frame, but of course it will vary because we'll have to understand what each partner's needs are. So those costs will vary.

Follow-up Question: I understood that the costs of maintaining the shuttle program month-to-month is part of what discourages having additional flights, because you've got to keep all those.. everything running and it's expensive, it's like $200 million a month I guess. I wondered if fixed costs at the facilities are costlier than elsewhere, perhaps it would discourage people from launching at Kennedy or sending them elsewhere, I wondered if that's a concern.

Answer: As you look at facilities that NASA will maintain to assume our exploration beyond low earth orbit there is tremendous leverage for commercial partners. That would mean NASA would maintain the facility because we need it for exploration beyond low earth orbit. The facility is there and the cost will be less than a facility that is only needed by one of our commercial partners. If the facilities are not needed by NASA, I see that as almost being cost prohibitive for a commercial partner to have enough use of that facility to fund both the fixed and variable costs. I believe the opportunity is when NASA identifies those facilities we need for exploration, what facilities then can our commercial partners leverage.

I would say that there are specific facilities at KSC that can be used in order to process and fly hardware, but there's a number of other capabilities throughout other NASA centers that industry may very well want to go use. Capabilities that NASA facilities provide and partners may want to utilize include wind tunnels for testing, arc jets for entry heating work, modeling, test chambers, engine testing. NASA has many capabilities, of which we have benefited from over the last 50 years. In addition to commercial crew, NASA will continue to do other things in space. So if there are multiple users over a particular facility, obviously the cost for that facility for any particular user will go down. We hope that becomes a model for a number of different facilities. I don't want people to think that Kennedy is what we're talking about. We're talking about all of the NASA centers that have capability to offer. In terms of the 21st century, the initiative that the president has put forward says we have been flying vehicles out of the space coast for quite a long time and some of the infrastructure needs to be modified to accommodate future programs. From a 21st century standpoint, it would be very helpful to look at the capabilities that can launch multiple systems from the space coast in an efficient manner. Like Brent said, if we can figure out ways to do that efficiently with multiple users, we think that there is an economy of scale there that can be approached for all the partners.


Question: Kevin Miller (Ball Aerospace): You've mentioned that the insight/oversight teams will be structured and flexible, both in terms of supporting what NASA's objectives there are, as well as addressing what the partner requirements and desirements are, in terms of support. My question is, will that be a costed element of a partner offer?

Answer: We haven't gotten as far as how you would parse out somebody's time. It becomes tough to delineate whether they're in this role because they're actually supporting the certification on behalf of NASA or if they're providing a service to the partner. There would be clear-cut roles, where if a partner needs a lab service or an analysis or something that is not characteristically itself part of the certification process. At this point in time, we just want to figure out what is at balance in order to assist the partner so we're getting the data we need to do that certification. But the reality is, we need to identify that line. When does somebody's job stop being part of their inherent NASA job and become a job of providing a service back to the partner. We'll have to figure that out.

Follow-up Question: The question really is, in terms of leveling the playing field, how do you do an apples-to-apples comparison of offers?

Answer: We definitely want a level playing field, and at the same point, we know that there are certain folks that don't have as much space flight experience as others. And so NASA will bring to bear the fact that we can make our intelligence or our capabilities equal across the board. We will not have providers using a lot of NASA capability at no cost. If NASA is providing a service to help develop something for the provider, then this definitely becomes something that will become costed to that partner. This doesn't mean we're not in favor of NASA providing the service. It could be very helpful, but it doesn't come at no cost. The insight team is trying to say that we can bring our IP capability across all partners equally and say if you have questions, we talk through that. The discussion is exactly what NASA needs to participate in and that really is at no cost. However, if all of a sudden the partner is looking for NASA to do the hardcore analysis in order to go do testing for that particular partner, then that will have a cost.


Question: Cynthia Martin-Brennan (Orbitec): I want to jump ahead a few years. When NASA becomes a consumer and you need to send a crew to ISS, and you have multiple providers, what are going to be your discriminators as far as which provider to choose?

Answer: Primarily the capabilities that they bring to bear and the cost. In terms of COTS cargo, it was best to have multiple providers. We would do the same sort of analysis for crew, trying to figure out what is in the best interests of NASA. In terms of a specific mission, it would depend on the capabilities of those providers. If we have multiple providers, and that is our goal, I would think it unlikely that they have the same capability in terms of turn around time, number of seats, cost, etc. So in certain instances, one provider may perform a particular mission better than the other on an individual basis. But on a portfolio, it might be better to have both. So that is a very high level answer to your question.

Let’s talk about how the cargo services contracts were structured, as it may be helpful. The way the cargo services evolved is they had different capabilities. So of course there are discriminators based on mission needs. With commercial crew, it's more of a per seat basis, but, again, there will be different missions that come with different needs. Our selection will be optimized on the need. But in any case, it is always good to have multiple redundant capabilities to service crew transportation.

Follow-up Question: In the cargo services, the CRS contract, there was a specific number of flights that were contracted for each provider, is that correct?

Answer: Actually it was a specific amount of cargo that was contracted for each provider.

The launch services program, the NASA launch services contract, has a portfolio of launch vehicles available and depending on the mission’s payload, there's a selection done based on that portfolio. This goes back to the fact that you're not buying the minivan to go transport two people necessarily. You want to fit the mission, the cost, and the whole realm of the possibility. I can see it progressing somewhere along those lines.

I would also say that in the future, other partners who want to get to ISS and do science and experiments very well may want to bring back some of their samples in addition to themselves. So if we have one capability that really is focused on bringing up and down crew, another capability may be focused on transporting less crew and more capability to bring back samples; then we have a portfolio to use. That's one reason why a portfolio is good; it provides competition and multiple ways to get to a destination. So if one particular system can’t fly, we have another system that can back it up.