Commercial Crew Program Introduces CCiCap Initiative
Aerospace companies bidding for NASA's Commercial Crew Program (CCP) development dollars will be expected to present the agency with a viable spacecraft and rocket combination along with blueprints for a mission control center and ground operations.
"We don't want a sales pitch, we don't want an advertisement," said Ed Mango, CCP program manager, during a preproposal conference on Feb. 14. "We want to know how they are technically going to make this happen."
Mango and his team are anticipating a bright next phase of development as the agency prepares to award funding for fully integrated crew transportation systems in the summer of 2012. The awards are expected to lead to activities engineers dream about, such as drop tests, engine test fires, pad abort tests and demonstration flights.
"For the first time, we are asking for the full-up, end-to-end integrated system," said Phil McAlister, NASA's director of Commercial Spaceflight Development.
The conference was a follow-on to an agency Announcement for Proposals (AFP) issued Feb. 7 that requested aerospace companies submit their plans for the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative by March 23. The conference was held to explain details of the AFP and answer questions from industry. More than 50 industry partners and stakeholders from 25 companies attended to ask NASA what it would be looking for in terms of milestones, funding, schedules, strategies, safety cultures, business modules and eventual flight certification standards.
"We're looking for questions that probe the technical part of this announcement and probe what we can and cannot do within this announcement," Mango said.
During CCiCap, the program plans to award multiple Space Act Agreements, valued from $300 million to $500 million each. Pointing out the successes of the first two development rounds for CCP, Mango said NASA intends to continue to foster competition by investing in more than one company.
"We want to advance multiple integrated crew transportation systems with the path of getting to an orbital demo flight by the middle of the decade," Mango said.
The announcement asked for proposals to include a base period of about 21 months, running from award through May 2014. Optional milestones beyond the base period also should be outlined leading to and culminating in a crewed orbital demonstration flight.
The goal of CCiCap is to develop an indigenous U.S. transportation system that can safely, affordably and routinely fly to low Earth orbit destinations. For NASA, that destination is the International Space Station. The space agency also will look for the companies chosen during CCiCap to throw in their own investments in order reduce the gap in which America is without its own transportation system.
"It's very different than the customer-supplier relationship, it's very much a partnership," McAlister said. "Since there are some other markets, besides just NASA, that industry could sell these services to, we think a partnership makes sense."
Those other low Earth orbit markets include research in the health and medical field, satellite servicing, space tourism and the transportation of astronauts from countries that don’t have human spaceflight programs.
While partnership remains the common theme of NASA's commercial crew development phases, the agency will continue to maintain more of an insight role than a traditional government oversight role during CCiCap.
"At the end of the day, you all (industry) are the ones who will make this work," said Brent Jett, CCP's deputy program manager. "We'll invest and we'll help, but you are the ones who will do the heavy lifting."
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center