Tuesday, July 20, 2010

CCDev Is Dead

Ok, I don't usually write these sorts of things, but I think this is so incredibly terrible news that I feel the need to vent. The NASA Authorization Act of 2010 kills the commercial crew development program, while simultaneously killing any chance of funding SpaceX's COTS-D option. It contains these lies:

Sec. 241. Affirmation of Policy

Reaffirms the policy of making use of United States commercially provided International Space Station crew transport and crew rescue services; limiting the use of the government system to non-ISS missions once commercial crew transport and crew rescue services meeting safety requirements become operational; and facilitating the transfer of NASA-developed technologies to United States commercial orbital human space transportation companies.

All politicians lie, it's what they do, but it would be good if they could at least be consistent in the same document.  What follows in Sec 242 is a long list of restrictions to make it completely impractical to do commercial crew, including this:

Directs the Administrator not to proceed with a procurement award for a commercial ISS crew transport system service if the provider’s crew transportation system has a predicted level of safety that is less than that predicted for the restructured exploration program’s crew transportation system.

In other words, it's ESAS all over again.. my paper rocket beats your flying vehicle because The Wiz said so.

But that's all just the flowery rhetoric, what matters is the numbers:

Sec. 101. Fiscal Year 2011

$14,000,000 is for the commercial cargo COTS demonstration program
$50,000,000 is for commercial crew transportation-related activities

Sec. 102. Fiscal Year 2012

$50,000,000 is for commercial crew transportation-related activities

Sec. 103. Fiscal Year 2013

$50,000,000 is for commercial crew transportation-related activities

Sec. 104. Fiscal Year 2014

$50,000,000 is for commercial crew transportation-related activities

Sec. 105. Fiscal Year 2015

$50,000,000 is for commercial crew transportation-related activities

Yes, those are in millions. $50M won't even buy you a test flight. $14M is close out money for COTS. Presumably the money for Cargo Resupply Services will come out of the ISS budget, but that isn't actually specified in the bill.. so for all we know it's the intention to kill commercial cargo too.  [Clark Lindsey points out to me that the press release doesn't match the bill: "it provides more than $4.9 billion in funding for commercial crew- and commercial cargo-related initiatives".]

This bill still has to go through appropriations, which is where these numbers will actually be decided, and then it will be sent to the White House to be rubber stamped. The next time we see these numbers they will be law and we'll be stuck with them.

So far the White House is still saying they support the senate bill, but maybe their idea of "compromise" is trading the CCDev program (and keeping the Space Technology program) for the Nelson Rocket.


  1. There's no indication that it's going to be rubber stamped, at least not yet. I'm as cynical as you but it would blow my mind if it went to law the way it is. But I do agree with you that no matter how things go CCDev is going to be gutted because the porkers aren't going to let go easily. It is a bad day indeed. The whole authorization act was pork-focused. It would be horrific if the bill, as is, went through.

  2. I don't get it. How can these two be reconciled? Why in the hell are we looking at Ares making a comeback, like some bad horror movie.

    If this stands, or something even close to this stands, I don't know. Like you said, it'll be time to go back to ignoring NASA again.