June 25, 2012
Frank Morring, Jr./Washington
NASA will need something like the $830 million it isn't going to get this year in later funding years to shift its space station-bound astronauts from Russian Soyuz seats onto private U.S. space taxis as planned.
Administrator Charles Bolden and William Gerstenmaier, the associate administrator for human exploration and operations, say they need as much as Congress can give them for fiscal 2013, plus big boosts in fiscal 2014-17, to meet their current schedule for flying the first station crew on a commercial vehicle in 2017.
Congress is on track to cut NASA's $830 million request for commercial crew development seed money to $525 million in the appropriations bill now under consideration (AW&ST June 18, p. 26). Gerstenmaier says the agency will need at least the original request in the out years to stay on track.
“What we want is to see the president's request, which was the $830 million,” says Bolden. “If that's not possible, we're asking for the maximum amount that the Congress can see themselves to grant for 2013, and then, as I have exchanged with Congressman [Frank] Wolf [R-Va.], we will ask for a significant increase in 2014 and the other years if we are to hold to the 2017 first-flight date for commercial crew to the International Space Station.”
Wolf and Bolden also agreed NASA will pick three companies to negotiate for 21-month Space Act Agreements (SAAs) to complete Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) development, instead of the single company Wolf's appropriations subcommittee wanted to help hold down costs. Under that agreement, the agency would provide “two-and-a-half” shares of seed money to the three companies as they refine their full systems, including launchers and operations.
Cautioning that the issue is “procurement-sensitive,” Gerstenmaier says only that funding levels will be negotiated against milestones the companies must meet, with the “one-half” share likely to have fewer milestones.
“It's fairly subjective,” he says. “The number of milestones approved will be less for one of the providers, potentially, than the other providers, and if you ask me does it exactly add up to two-and-a-half, it's not going to.”