House Members Propose Radical NASA Overhaul


WASHINGTON, DC (Press Release) – Today, Reps. John Culberson (TX-07), Frank Wolf (VA-10), Bill Posey (FL-15), Pete Olson (TX-22), James Sensenbrenner (WI-05) and Lamar Smith (TX-21), introduced the Space Leadership Preservation Act, legislation that will change business as usual at NASA and result in a more stable and accountable space program. The bill would create a 10-year term for the NASA Administrator to provide crucial stability of the leadership structure at NASA so that decisions are made based on science and are removed from the politics of changing administrations.

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Rohrabacher, Hutchison and Hall Praise NASA Commercial Crew Deal

Key Congressional leaders are praising the deal reached between NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) that will allow the space agency to select multiple commercial crew providers using Space Act Agreements later this year.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)

Washington, Jun 5 – Today, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) issued the following statement on the agreement reached between Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), chairman of the House Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations subcommittee and NASA on the future of the commercial crew program:

“I am pleased that CJS Appropriations Chairman Frank Wolf and NASA Administrator Bolden were able to come to an agreement ensuring that the Commercial Crew Program will move forward quickly while preserving competition in the program. This leadership will help bring about safe, reliable, domestic access to space for our astronauts on commercial vehicles, saving money, creating jobs in America, and leveraging our greatest strengths to maintain our international leadership in space.”

Rep. Rohrabacher is a senior member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

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Wolf Relents on Single Commercial Crew Downselect Demand

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA)

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) released a statement today saying he had reached an agreement with NASA that will allow the space agency to select at least two commercial crew providers this summer for the next round of the program.

Key details include:

  • NASA will issue not more than 2.5 (two full and one partial) CCiCAP awards
  • Commercial crew fiscal year 2013 funding level will be at or near the Senate Appropriations Committee approved amount of $525 million (less than $830 million requested by Obama Administration)
  • future program funding after the CCiCAP phase will require FAR-based certification and service contracts
  • NASA will produce a new, “substantially complete” procurement strategy for FAR-based contracts prior to the awarding CCiCAP contracts
  • The space agency will vet commercial crew participants’ financial health and viability before providing CCiCAP funds
  • NASA will ensure “the government’s ‘first right of refusal’ to acquire property developed under or acquired as part of the commercial crew program at a price that reflects the taxpayers’ existing investment in its development.”

The agreement was reached through an exchange of letters between Wolf and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. Wolf’s full statement with links to the letters is reproduced after the break.

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Rohrabacher Statement in Support of Commercial Crew

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher

Washington, May 10  — Today, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science engaged in a colloquy regarding NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and the report language his Committee issued to accompany the FY2013 CJS appropriation. (Attached below)

Rep. Rohrabacher issued the following statement:

“For the past few years there has been a lot of controversy around the idea of launching cargo and astronauts to space on commercially-developed, owned, and operated systems. The Bush Administration decided we should turn over this job to the private sector once we retired the space shuttles, rather than pursuing a traditional NASA-led approach. To their credit, the Obama Administration, guided by an advisory panel led by Norm Augustine, saw the wisdom in this and proposed to fund multiple competing private concepts for crew launch, eventually achieving a fly-off of two or more different systems to ensure that America would have safer, more robust, and much more affordable space access that doesn’t require paying Russia’s Space Agency half a billion dollars every year.

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House to NASA: Down Select to Single Commercial Crew Competitor Immediately

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

The FY13 Commerce, Justice, and Science Draft Committee Report [PDF] says that NASA should immediately down select to a single competitor in the commercial crew program to save money and time in fielding a shuttle replacement:

“The Committee believes that many of these concerns would be addressed by an immediate downselect to a single competitor or, at most, the execution of a leader-follower paradigm in which NASA makes one large award to a main commercial partner and a second small award to a back-up partner.”

In short, the committee believes the commercial crew program is too expensive and will take too long. Legislators also do not believe there is a market for more than one crew provider and that the program risks becoming another Solyndra. So, they want commercial crew to look as much like a traditional NASA procurement, with one provider and procurement under traditional Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR).

A section of the report outlining the committee’s thinking in detailed is reproduced after the break. Thanks to Clark Lindsey for finding it.

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CSF Criticizes House’s Effort to “Reconfigure” Commercial Crew Program


The Commercial Spaceflight Federation today hit back at a House plan to strictly limit the way that NASA can conduct its commercial crew program. CSF released the following statement from President Michael Lopez-Alegria:

“The funding level provided in the draft Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill produced by the House Appropriations Committee represents a commitment to the Commercial Crew Program that is greatly appreciated by the industry,” said Commercial Spaceflight Federation President Michael Lopez-Alegria. “As important, however, is preserving competition in the program, as the vehicles are not sufficiently mature to enable NASA to confidently select a single vehicle at this time. The next phase of the program should also maintain the use of Space Act Agreements, which require meaningful investment by the competing companies to augment NASA funding. NASA does plan to move to FAR-based contracts at the appropriate time prior to certifying any provider to carry crew. We believe NASA has carefully designed a program that maintains competition, and preserves safety, through the development and certification process, and that uses the appropriate contracting mechanism at each stage. It is best to leave decisions on program management to the NASA human spaceflight professionals who have access to all the information and have worked closely with all the competing companies. If the language in the report were applied to the current round of competition, it would result in a significant delay in restoring U.S. human access to orbit.”

The statement is a response to the House’s demands that NASA quicken the pace of the program, limit competition, and use traditional contracting methods. The House approach was summarized in a written statement by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), chairman of the House’s Science subcommittee, that read:

“Commercial Crew development is funded at $500 million, consistent with the current authorization and the report accompanying the House Budget Resolution.  In light of limited budgets and the need to find the fastest, safest and most cost effective means of achieving a U.S. capability for access to the International Space Station, the bill directs NASA to winnow the commercial partners and advance the schedule for moving to traditional government procurement methods.”

The Obama Administration has requested $830 million for the program in the FY 2013 budget. The House cuts that amount to $500 million while the Senate wants to provide $525 million. Previous cuts in the budget have already caused schedule delays that will lengthen American dependence upon the Russians for access to the International Space Station.

Wolf’s “Reconfigured” Commercial Crew: Less Money, Less Competition, More Regulation

Rep. Frank Wolf

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

We now know what the House has in mind for NASA’s “reconfigured” commercial crew program. I’ll let Rep. Frank Wolf, chairman of the House’s Science subcommittee, explain in his own inimitable way:

Commercial Crew development is funded at $500 million, consistent with the current authorization and the report accompanying the House Budget Resolution.  In light of limited budgets and the need to find the fastest, safest and most cost effective means of achieving a U.S. capability for access to the International Space Station, the bill directs NASA to winnow the commercial partners and advance the schedule for moving to traditional government procurement methods.

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Congress Demands U.S. Compete With China, Then Slashes OSTP Budget


For some reason, the lyrics to “The Flintstones” instantly flashed through my head when I read this:

Frustrated that White House officials have ignored congressional language curtailing scientific collaborations with China, legislators have decided to get their attention through a 32% cut in the tiny budget of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

I’m not sure why I immediately thought of Fred, Barney, Betty and whatshername? Maybe it’s my sense that the Republicans in Congress form some sort of “modern Stone Age family” with rocks in their heads instead of brains. And that they have some sort of innate aversion to the type of serious science that tells us that people and dinosaurs didn’t really walk the Earth at the same time. Not all Republicans, mind you. Just enough of them to have influence over vital national policies. And that even a single member with that type of power is one too many.

Allow me to explain. First, the back story.

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Wolf: Why NASA Shouldn’t Cooperate With China

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the budgets of NASA, the National Science Foundation and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, today delivered the following remarks at a U.S. – China Economic and Security Review Commission hearing on the implications of China’s military and civil space programs:

“I appreciate the commission’s leadership and I strongly support its work in this area.  I believe that this review of the Chinese space program is both necessary and long overdue.

“Before I start, I want to express my sincere disappointment that NASA has chosen not to participate in this important hearing.  As the agency responsible for our nation’s civil space program, NASA has a unique responsibility to lead in this area and to ensure that the American space program remains preeminent.  NASA’s absence is reflective of this administration’s abysmal record on American leadership in space.

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Congressman Objects to Bolden Trip to China

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden

U.S. Lawmaker Balks at NASA Chief’s China Visit
Space News

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden’s plan to visit China this month for high-level talks about possible cooperation on human spaceflight has prompted a senior Republican appropriator to request a security briefing on the trip before it happens.

In an Oct. 5 letter to the NASA chief, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) said he strongly opposes any partnership with Beijing that involves human spaceflight, including efforts to involve China in the international space station.

“I need not remind you that no such planning or coordination has been approved by the Congress,” wrote Wolf, the ranking member on the House Appropriations commerce, justice, science subcommittee that oversees NASA spending. “In fact, several recent NASA authorization bills have explicitly sought to place strict limitations on coordination with China.”

Wolf, an outspoken China critic, is likely to return to the chairmanship of the NASA appropriations subcommittee next year if Democrats lose control of the House in upcoming November elections.

Read the full story.