- Parabolic Arc
- June 2, 2023
NASA Commercial Crew Decision Expected Soon
Charles Lurio of The Lurio Reports that NASA is likely to announce contracts for the next round of the Commercial Crew Program on either Aug. 22 or Aug. 29. Sources have told him that the space agency is likely to make two full awards for partners to build and flight test their crew vehicles.
If he is correct, that would leave one of three competitors — Boeing, Sierra Nevada Corporation or SpaceX — without a seat at the table. Sierra Nevada and SpaceX have said they would continue with vehicle development if they are not chosen for this round. Boeing has said it would be difficult for the company to close the business case for its CST-100 spacecraft without additional NASA funding.
NASA’s goal is to have commercial crew transport to the International Space Station (ISS) by the end of 2017. SpaceX has said that it believes it can begin service about a year prior to that deadline with its Dragon V2 spacecraft, which is an upgraded version of the Dragon cargo vehicle that has already flown to and returned from ISS four times. Boeing and Sierra Nevada have said they are on track to meet the 2017 deadline.
53 responses to “NASA Commercial Crew Decision Expected Soon”
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Hopefully, NASA will award just spaced, and then push the house GOP to fully fund all 3. They will. It is just about jobs in their districts.
A large part of the selection criteria is the business case, and Boeing has said theirs is weak, largely due to high Atlas V HR costs.
In the last program update SpaceX’s business case was scored as green while SNC and Boeing were yellow. Since then SNC has established relationships with JAXA, and jointly DLR (Germany) and ESA to explore Japan and Europe using Dream Chaser. On the other hand, Boeing issued WARN notices to their team.
ISTM the handwriting is on the wall.
So you think Boeing will get nuked, while SNC will continue? If that happens, I will be shocked. Boeing has many backers in congress. Heck, Boeing has put darn little of their own money into this. NASA has paid nearly all of Boeing’s cost so far.
I will say that if spacex and SNC win, then Boeing will simply use their friends in the house GOP to get more money allocated for theirs. That would be interesting and better than what I suggested.
Boeing putting little of their skin in the game counts towards the CC business case calculation codified into the process. The decision-makers are bound by those criteria.
Windbourne, sorry but you will be shocked.
As Terry said the amount that Boeing is ready to spend (which is almost $0) is a major criteria. And their expendable service module was also a costly bad idea.
NASA is the only user of this new system. Once every 6 months. Maybe Bigilow someday. DragonLab says they could have crew if somebody needs it. There is only need for one system. Should NASA fund more than one then use one and the others are stored? Sounds like a waste of money. A lot of people says waste is going on, but Crew waste of money would be OK? Stored or each flies a year apart? I guess if NASA handles the crew and the normal SpaceX or ULA launch team launches they could.
It is called redundancy and separation for assured access to space. In addition competition brings reduced cost and improved service. Further once Commercial Crew is operational Bigelow will be able to launch and space tourists will be able to fly again. There is demand for space tourism but no supply at the moment due to lack of launch systems. Lastly NASA is meant to foster new developments in US aerospace industry, which is what Commercial Crew is.
Bigelow hired two astronauts two months ago and plans to have its first twin-BA330 station in LEO in 2017. Crew of 12. Bigelow figures to rotate them dirtside four to six times a year. That’s eight to 12 flights of any of these vehicles. In terms of market demand for crew transport, the ISS will quickly become a minor sideshow.
I wonder if Congress has to be back, so they can tell the NASA committee first. Like the budget. SNC can only make it if NASA lets the first crewed flight be a crew rotation, which is what I think they mean. It might be just a visit, which DC could do. If 2, that means a flight for one every year or 6 months if one is stored. They say 4 crew and there is space for 1 more on ISS. Might be only 3. I think really much higher per seat than Soyuz. $300 million for Dragon. $100 million a seat. But without a full crew it could carry a fair amount of cargo. And NASA would not have to pay more since they are buying the whole flight.
140 million for the dragon, not 300. So even if only 5 go up, it is less than 30/seat. OTOH, Russia now charges 65-70 million / seat.
140 million for cargo a flight now. They do build a new Dragon each flight. Crew they say, they will reuse. So maybe that will actually lower the cost. NASA is paying for development so they can’t say they have to recover that. NASA will do a lot more controlling. Less work for them. I just have the feeling the word Crew will up the price. But they kept saying Dragon V1 was reusable. They did not actually say they would reuse it. It came as a big surprise that were not reusing it. They may be doing the same thing this time. If we and media do not think, but assume something, SpaceX and NASA keeps it quiet. Hopefully at the news conference the media will think of everything. We should think of everything good and bad and hope the right person reads the comments.
According to SpaceX, it will be 20 million / seat, which makes it 140 million.
“It came as a big surprise that were not reusing it. They may be doing the same thing this time”
It came as a big surprise to who? It is their first ever spacecraft, ‘prototypes’ they are testing with, and they land in nasty salt-water. NASA foresaw SpaceX wouldn’t (or couldn’t) start re-using Dragon at first, that it would take time. Which is why they told SpaceX to contract commercial resupply assuming they couldn’t re-use Dragon.
For Commercial Crew, SpaceX’s has gained lots of experience making Dragon’s, the timeline is much less rushed than COTS.
133 million a cargo flight because NASA wanted a new capsule for each cargo run. Bigelow is already advertising the SpaceX costs, 26 million a seat and two months room and board. Bigelow already said it 3 million a month to for room and board per month.
That is 140 million a flight. Bigelow will get cargo flown on used dragons used for NASA cargo runs making BA cargo runs cheaper and if reusablity working for the first stage, BA cargo runs will be really cheap compared to NASA rates.
Actually, it will only be with SpaceX that they have cheap human and cargo runs. And it is not compared to NASA rates, but ALL RATES.
what is being said is correct – part of their contract with NASA is to build a new Dragon for each cargo flight. it’s not likely that NASA will have that same requirement for the crew flights, considering that all of the commercial crew providers have reusable spacecraft.
it is possible that SpaceX will reuse some of their cargo Dragons in the future, perhaps for a DragonLab flight.
I sure hope you are correct. He probably does not know, but ISS head Sefridini said awhile back that Soyuz will look like a good deal when we learn the cost per seat of CC, he thinks for whatever reason. In the q&a section of the next round they said to only give the cost of the mission. I guess there will be a separate contract for regular missions later on. The cost could change from what they say in the next round which are test flights. Maybe there will still be 3 and competition will bring the cost down.
Actually, once the west has a flight system, we will quit using Soyuz. So Soyuz will take up 2-3. Then west will go with 5-7. I wonder if NASA will send up 2 extra ppl to stay for a week or so and come back on old craft?
Or is it possible to put or more on the ISS?
Seems like with a BA living unit that it would be possible to allow ppl to sleep in peace while the station goes to 3 shifts
the ISS can currently handle a max crew of 7. a new habitation unit would need to be added to increase the ISS crew size. there’s only 6 on there now because the two Soyuz lifeboats can only hold 3 each.
Yeah, that is what I thought. It would be interesting to get a BA habitation unit and then increase to 3 shifts.
They are getting a BA unit, but will not use it. Looks like they could use it for storage or a garden at least. Stick one of those large air hoses in it and an extension cord. Going up in a Dragon Trunk.
yeah, but BEAM is just there to prove self to NASA. And they might do storage, But I suspect that more and more astronauts will go there just to escape the noise.
they might be using BEAM for some long-term non-essentials storage. however, since it’s a test unit they will keep it sealed off in case of depressurization.
BEAM is not a habitation unit.
The one major advantage of BA’s, is the ability to isolate noise from the rest of the ISS. As such, if NASA allows a future habitation unit, it should allow for a major increase at the ISS.
NASA says they will switch 1 to 1 with Soyuz. They need to keep one US on board all the time. They need an old hand too show the new crew how to do things. Right now they send 3 crew down, then send 3 up. If they have more than 1 docking port then it is no problem to have visitors for awhile. If not it will be rather complicated. Perhaps ISS people have not said because it is too early. Hope it comes up at the news conference I hope they have.
NASA is reconfiguring the ISS to have 2 NASA-ports for crew, and 2 NASA-ports for cargo, all easily accessible.
I know what I’m pulling for:
Fund SpaceX at somewhat more than a regular full share, as needed to accelerate the program as much as possible. Musk and Shotwell have already said that the Dragon V2 is already on an aggressive schedule and that just throwing money at it couldn’t make things finish much faster, but also that extra dollars could accelerate the program somewhat. Let’s do that and get this show on the road.
Partially but substantially fund SNC, including money to integrate it with the Falcon 9 (as the Atlas may not be available going forward and it’s too expensive regardless). Retain Atlas capability though in case it remains available and the Falcon 9 has to stand down for awhile. SNC can continue to develop the DreamChaser, perhaps at a somewhat slower pace, eventually providing an alternative manned system with dissimilar redundancy and a low g re-entry capability.
Throw some scraps to Boeing to at least keep their program on life support until about 2017, in case either of the others run into major problems. Maybe spend for a Falcon 9 integration study. Of course, if they want to, they could throw in some of their own money and continue at a more robust level.
I really really really hate any management that came from GE linage. Those guys are the absolute WORST fools on this planet. Hopefully, Boeing investors will fire McNerney SOONER, not later.
And if the primary launcher is F9, then we should use Delta, not Atlas as the backup. After all, if F9 does the launches UNLESS there is a major failure and it has to be pull off the line, then Delta is a good backup.
The Delta IV is about twice as expensive as the Atlas V, never mind the non-optional solid rocket booster motors. AFAIK it will cost at least about $1B and couple of years to man-rated the Delta IV.
Neither the medium (9t-LEO) nor heavy (23t-LEO) configurations require solids. Only the “medium+” configurations.
True, but neither would be used for crew launches. I cannot be sure about CrewDragon, but CST-100 and DreamChaser would require solids, because the Heavy is too expensive and medium is not powerful enough.
First off, it is NOT about twice. It is less than 20% difference.
In addition, Delta can fly without the Russians telling us what we can/can not do.
It is time that ULA looks at how much they are paying for their launches and start changing. And fast.
IF ULA can stop trying to compete with SpaceX politically, and start competing with them economically (by coming up with launch vehicles that accomplish comparable launches for comparable amounts of money), NASA and the U.S. will all be better off.
Sadly, ULA’s management is NOT into doing that. They are used to having a comfortable monopoly.
All the commercial crew contenders have vehicle stacks greater than 9t.
Interestingly, the good ol’ NASA Orion capsule will be pretty much proven on the Delta (after its initial launch, which is coming right up). Arguably, that makes the need for a Boeing CST-100 backup to Dragon and DreamChaser superfluous.
Obviously, a lot depends on Russian, in terms of what makes the most sense as a Plan B/C to Dragon V2. That particular situation [with Russia] is very, very sketchy though.
The so call Orion on the Delta IV Heavy is a boilerplate article without a service module or launch abort tower, basically to test the Avcoat heat shield.
The first crewed Orion is supposedly schedule for 2021 with a price tag over $1B just for the capsule. Roughly about 6 commercial crew missions including the launch vehicles. The full up Orion need something more capable than the Delta IV Heavy. So either a Falcon Heavy or some flavor of SLS.
Somehow the Orion don’t make much sense as a taxicab to the ISS financially. Every Orion ISS mission will have a price tag over $2B.
You said “without a service module or launch abort tower”
NASA says both are included, though I think it will have less than full propellant:
“The Orion flight test vehicle is comprised of five primary elements which will be operated and evaluated during the test flight:
• The Launch Abort System (LAS)
• The Orion Crew Module (CM)
• The Service Module (SM)
The service module for EFT-1 is the Delta IV upper stage.
AIUI the LAS is an aerodynamic simulator minus the abort rocket motor with just the tower jettison thruster. Since the actual LAS weights as much as the CM.
I found a reference to the Service Module attached being useless, which makes the nasa document seem like a ‘non-truth’, but maybe they changed the plan since then…
The only reference to a LAS simulator I found was the Ares 1-X test launch.
” For the EFT-1 flight, the SM is not fully outfitted. It is a structural representation simulating the exact size and mass. “
I think the change to the dummy service module for EFT-1 has occurred since the decision to have ESA build the service module for the Orion. At this point, ESA is (allegedly) on schedule for having a working service module for the EM-1 flight in 2017 (or 2018, as appears to be the case now).
Yes, but it CAN be used if needed.
Orion-crew won’t be able to fly until 2021 or later. It is too heavy to fly on anything short of a Delta IVH, and might need trimming to fit even there.
Oh, and it physically can’t dock with ISS.
Orion is completely inadequate for an ISS “backup” and would need significant spending in order for it to qualify.
[And besides, how can it possibly make sense to spend more every year on the “backup” than you spent in total developing the “main”?]
I absolutely agree that Orion isn’t an ideal backup and that it costs much too much, etc. Furthermore, it is tied together with the SLS, a rocket and approach which In my opinion is misguided in conception. However, Congress/Lockheed are building Orion anyway, regardless of the existence of better options and approaches. Simultaneously, as Congress still isn’t fully funding the commercial crew request, NASA’s preferred option of bringing all three commercial competitors to completion by 2017 is simply no longer possible. A concession will have to be made somewhere (so, consider funding two to completion and dropping the third candidate entirely. Orion/Delta Heavy, if nothing else, does provide a potential backup, a “Plan C” if SpaceX has to stand down due to an accident and Sierra Nevada is having difficulty bringing the world’s first ever manned lifting body spacecraft to fruition).
It’s probably better to not even mention anything about that to Congress, though.
Just so I’m clear, it’s not just that Orion is expensive and heavy. It physically can’t dock with the ISS.
It lacks the ability to dock.
So it’s not a “plan C” for when SpaceX and the second Commercial Crew provider are both grounded. It would take longer to convert Orion into an ISS-compatible capsule as it would to fix whatever problem grounded the others.
Well that would be unlikely since there are no common elements between SpaceX’s proposal and the other two. Different pads as well. For both to be grounded there would have to be an issue with the ISS.
I agree it would be unlikely – and unwanted!. Hopefully, no such cluster-mess ever comes into play.
I’m certainly not questioning that. I’m thinking Dragon being grounded after a major Falcon9 failure before Dream Chaser is flying, or after Atlas V is grounded due to engine supplies being cut off. That seems to be the only way both could be simultaneously grounded. (I’m ignoring CST-100.)
Orion is still not “plan C” even when plans A & B have both failed. The time and cost to fix any fault in Falcon9/Dragon, and/or to adapt Dream Chaser to Ariene5/etc would be less than the time/cost to modify Orion to be compatible with the ISS (and DeltaIVH.)
[“Plan C”, if anyone was serious about that, would be to divert Orion money to a) fully fund all three CC systems, and b) to create a CCDev tier 2 for Orbital and Blue Origin to develop smaller capacity capsules as backup-backups, given that both have independent launchers. (Although Orbital is still dependent on Russian engines. So “Plan D” would divert SLS money to a major multi-vendor COTS-style engine development program, to create multiple engine families of various sizes.)]
Paul, I hear ya. However, “It would take longer to convert Orion into an ISS-compatible capsule as it would to fix whatever problem grounded the others.” – you’re talking as if Congress were making decisions based on making timely, affordable progress in space.
Congress is making decisions, in large part, to transfer funds into the districts of the members with the power to make those spending decisions. The longer and more expensive such a conversion process would be, to some extent, the better (from the point of view of the relevant committee and subcommittee members).
Well yeah, nation-harming acts of madness and greed-bordering-on-treason defy logical analysis.
Oh, even though I worked for Boeing, I would LOVE to see Boeing lose this and then have the GOP be forced to restore all 3 to being funded. We really need 3, along with multiple providers of space stations to get competition to drop prices fast.
I was wondering if it might make sense to fund Boeing and SNC and leave SpaceX out. The reason I say this is because SpaceX is much further along than the other two, and has plenty of money to continue. Basically, SpaceX could continue on their own, but the others not so much. If NASA funds them and expects SpaceX to continue on their own (maybe through an unfunded Space Act Agreement), then they get to preserve 3 options for a little while longer. Eventually though, they will have to downselect.
It depends what your goals are.
If your goal is to maximise the number of operational systems, without regard to time, then fully funding Boeing, half funding SNC, and unfunded SAAs for SpaceX would be the solution. Anything else will likely result in Boeing dropping CST-100 and immediately sacking the workforce.
If the goal is to return the US to space as quickly as possible, ending the dependence on Russia to the greatest degree possible, then you would fully fund SpaceX, fund SNC as much as possible with an emphasis in their milestones of adapting launcher compatibility to Falcon9 and Ariene5 in addition to AtlasV. And let Boeing rot.
If the goal is to maximise the development of technology, then fully fund SNC, then Boeing. With unfunded SAAs for SpaceX. (Better yet, fully fund SNC, partly fund Blue Origin.)
If the goal is to break the “cycle of abuse” by the Primes, again you’d fund SpaceX and drop Boeing entirely. (And maybe partly fund Blue Origin again, with unfunded SAAs for SNC.)
If the goal is to protect that cycle of abuse, you’d switch to a cost-plus sole-source contract with Boeing, with an initial first-flight scheduled for some time after 2022.