Keeping focused on commercial crew

by Jeff Foust
Monday, September 17, 2012

More than two and a half years after its introduction as part of the sweeping changes to NASA proposed by the Obama Administration, the agency’s commercial crew program remains one of its most polarizing initiatives. For some, the effort to stimulate the commercial development of vehicles that can carry NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station, as well as for commercial applications like space tourism and research, is a logical step forward for space commercialization that also enables NASA to devote more resources to exploration efforts. For others, the program wastes money by giving funds to too many companies, including those with little or no experience in human spaceflight, using non-standard approaches that don’t provide the same level of control as a conventional contract, with little hope of additional use of these systems beyond NASA’s own limited needs.

“This is all leading to a plan that gets us to a flight to the ISS with people on board by the end of 2015,” said SpaceX’s Reisman.

Despite that debate, the commercial crew effort continues, with the award last month of three funded Space Act Agreements to Boeing, Sierra Nevada Corporation, and SpaceX for the next phase of the program, called Commercial Crew Integrated Capability, or CCiCap (see “Commercial crew’s winners and losers”, The Space Review, August 6, 2012). In the six weeks since those awards, those companies have been busy starting work on them, including achieving some of the early milestones in those agreements. Those efforts, though, have not eliminated the concerns of some, including those worried about a mismatch between system development and safety requirements.

Read more: The Space Review: Keeping focused on commercial crew

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