Common Ground Key to Certifying Commercial Systems
NASA managers and aerospace industry representatives met Sept. 19 for a chance to discuss the request for proposals that will begin NASA's certification process for integrated crew transportation systems. This certification process will help NASA to eventually purchase service missions to fly astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
During the Certification Products Contract (CPC) Pre-Proposal Conference at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, commercial crew and space station program officials made presentations and answered industry questions about the two-phase acquisition strategy the agency is taking to certify these new systems to meet its crew transportation needs no later than 2017.
"Why is this (CPC) important?" asked Maria Collura, program certification manager. "It reduces the risk for us as we enter Phase 2 and also gives us confidence in enabling the readiness for services as soon as possible."
Beginning in February 2013 when awards are anticipated, Phase 1, called CPC, will allow NASA to work with CPC contractors to establish critical systems engineering and safety tools and certification plans so that Phase 2 can be spent actually building, verifying and validating the systems. It will be up to the companies to decide how they prove their systems are safe enough to fly to low Earth orbit, but the agency will certify the systems through the use of this phased contract prior to allowing missions crewed by NASA astronauts.
"We believe this will benefit both parties so that we can move forward together into Phase 2 on common ground," said Tom Simon, chair of the CPC Evaluation Team. "It's very important to agree on what's required for a NASA certification and to have common expectations so that when the plans are executed we can focus on determining if the results meet the criteria defined in the plans."
Up to this point, NASA's Commercial Crew Program (CCP) and its industry partners have been operating under Space Act Agreements. That strategy has continued to advance the development of systems for the country as a whole through NASA's Commercial Crew Development Rounds 1 and 2 and the newly awarded Commercial Crew Development Integrated Capability (CCiCap). CCP's phased acquisition will allow NASA and industry to iron out how systems in development could meet all of NASA's safety and performance requirements for crewed missions to the space station.
"Just to be clear, those requirements have been locked in place for quite some time," said Ed Mango, CCP manager. "All we have been doing is updating them with clarifications and expanding our supporting information helping to make sure that they are clearer for industry to understand."
"The CPC effort is critical to defining a complete system that is safe enough to fly our astronauts to the International Space Station," Mango said.
The transition between the two phases is expected to take place in mid-2014. While both phases will be open to any company to submit a proposal, Collura said Phase 2 will build on Phase 1 and companies that are interested in receiving a contract for NASA crew transportation are encouraged to submit proposals for Phase 1.
"You absolutely will get the benefit of technical interchange and disposition, which will help prepare you for Phase 2 and actually reduce risk to both of us during that phase as well," Collura said.
"If you are a company out there who is developing a commercial crew transportation system and you're at the appropriate level of maturity in the design and development process, we want to work with you in Phase 1," said CCP's Deputy Program Manager Brent Jett. "We think it's very critical to engage with the developers of these systems in Phase 1 to disposition those products so that you can make the right decisions in your designs as you approach the critical design state and get ready to compete for Phase 2."
Questions and answers from the Sept. 19 Pre-Proposal Conference can be found as they are posted on the CPC procurement website at:
For more information about NASA's Commercial Crew Program, visit:
Kennedy Space Center, Fla.