|Project Management Plan Review and|
Crew Demo 1 System Requirements Review
|Crew Demo 1 System Preliminary Design Review||$22,420,000|
|Crew Demo 2 System Requirements Review||$25,420,000|
|Crew Demo 1 Critical Design Review||$20,420,000|
|Crew Demo 2 System Preliminary Design Review||$20,420,000|
|Crew Demo 1 Demonstration Readiness Review||$20,420,000|
|Crew Demo 3 System Requirements Review||$25,420,000|
|Crew Demo 2 Critical Design Review||$18,420,000|
|Crew Demo 3 System Preliminary Design Review||$20,420,000|
|Crew Demo 1 Mission||$15,420,000|
|Crew Demo 2 Demonstration Readiness Review||$18,420,000|
|Crew Demo 3 Critical Design Review||$18,420,000|
|Crew Demo 2 Mission||$8,420,000|
|Crew Demo 3 Demonstration Readiness Review||$18,420,000|
|Crew Demo 3 Mission||$8,420,000|
As with all the COTS milestones, SpaceX would not have received these payments until the milestone was completed. The finance milestones were required to demonstrate that SpaceX could fund and complete all the milestones without using the payments from NASA as "seed money".
The COTS-D option was never activated. You may even hear some people at NASA say that it was never "funded", this is wrong. The final nail in the coffin of COTS-D came in the form of an intriguing exchange between Sen. Bill Nelson and then acting NASA Administrator Chris Scolese. Here's the relevant part of the long transcript.
Senator Nelson. In last year's authorization bill, there was guidance to NASA about COTS-D Space Act agreements to develop a U.S. commercial alternative to Soyuz. We authorized $150 million in funding for COTS-D. I noticed that you are
putting $150 million of stimulus funds toward the Commercial Crew and Cargo program, but not actually initiating COTS-D agreements. Why are you not initiating these Space Act agreements?
Mr. Scolese. Well, we are working the commercial program as you defined. There was cargo on it. We have those two contracts with SpaceX and Orbital to do cargo. We had one for COTS-D. I cannot recall a specific--$150 million to go on to COTS-D. We did this year in the stimulus identify $150 million to stimulate a commercial activity, and it is broken into two pieces: $70 million to go off and develop capabilities that any visiting vehicle would need, including commercial vehicles, and that includes developing the human space flight rating requirements, the requirements that you need to be certified for human space flight. As you well know, we build human spacecraft and design them so infrequently that we have to write those requirements down. So part of this is to make those available to everybody, make them understandable to everybody, and that will help not only the commercial providers broadly, but all of us. And then $80 million to stimulate activity for a commercial crew.
[recess for a vote]
Senator Nelson. I want to go back to the question that I had asked you earlier. You described the breakdown of how you intend to program $150 million for Commercial Crew and Cargo. Instead of putting the dollars into the various component pieces that would enable crew capability, would it not make more sense just to invest that in a milestone-based demonstration flight?
Mr. Scolese. We discussed that, and we believe that we need to take a measured approach to developing commercial crew. As you know, again it is a very difficult prospect to develop a crewed vehicle to carry crews safely to and from space, let alone rendezvous and dock with the Space Station. So we are working a measured development where we work progressively from developing the capability to get into space, to conduct the rendezvous and docking with the Space Station, to crew rescue, which can be done without having to worry about crew escape,
all the way up to carrying crew. That is the philosophy that we are working to achieve. To do that, we needed to do some things that broadly help the community that wants to do this, as I mentioned earlier, about developing clear and concise specs and standards so that we can safely put our crew on those vehicles. And further, I think you have seen the annual report of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel that had some questions about the detail of our human rating requirements. So that is all part of what we are trying to accomplish, and we believe that will get us a commercial crew capability quicker and safer than if we were to just go off and suggest that we fund a capability.
Senator Nelson. But that was not what the legislation said. The legislation said that $150 million was funding for COTS-D. In this case, you would not even have to pay until the COTS-D partner was able to successfully demonstrate that capability. Is that not right?
Mr. Scolese. It would be dependent upon how we structured it. Of course, we wanted to maximize competition for the vehicle. As you know, there is only one COTS-D provider.
Senator Nelson. Well, when I say "you," I am referring to NASA, and you were not the Acting Administrator at the time. This is an example of where NASA has not followed the legislation. Now, let me ask you this. Would $150 million be enough to demonstrate that capability?
Mr. Scolese. We would have to look at it, but I do not think so, sir.
Senator Nelson. Well, what do you think it would be?
Mr. Scolese. I would have to get back to you on that, but it would be several times that, I would expect, because recall, we have to develop not only the crew portion of it. We have to develop the life support systems, the launch escape systems, the recovery systems. All of those have to be developed and demonstrated, and $150 million does not seem enough to do that.
Senator Nelson. We had a unique opportunity, if NASA had listened and followed the law, we had a unique opportunity this year between the 2009 operating plan and the additional funds provided by the stimulus bill and the development of the 2010 budget to craft a COTS-D plan that would have funded the program at the level that the folks needed. That path was not pursued. NASA did not obey the law. Again, I am not saying it to you because you are the Acting Administrator since January 20, but I want to point this out that sometimes NASA does not want itself to be helped. We have got to get our act together.
And that was the last opportunity for COTS-D. Had NASA obeyed the law and provided the $150M that was allocated in the FY09 budget, SpaceX could have started COTS-D and completed the first seven milestones. When the $150M in stimulus money came in SpaceX would have been on much better footing to claim part of it. Instead, Sen Shelby was able to divert $100M to the development of Ares I, a vehicle that was later scheduled to be cancelled prompting him to insert language into law prohibiting NASA from doing that. Of the remaining $50M, SpaceX received none.
The official position of NASA seems to be that the CCDev program has replaced COTS-D. SpaceX has put in a bid for the new round, which NASA has been prohibited from starting due to the failure of Congress to pass a budget for FY11. Should SpaceX be successful, they intend to start work on the launch abort system which will also allow the Dragon spacecraft to land vertically on land. While I have been assured that the CCDev program will be "milestone based" like COTS, I still have my doubts that it will capture the simplicity of the COTS-D option.