By Jim Hillhouse & Jason Rhian
A recent series of articles appearing on the website Parabolic Arc raises questions about NASA’s management of NASA’s Commercial Crew program. In particular, concerns are being voiced as to how the Commercial Crew integrated Capability (CCiCap) milestones and their awards were determined and why the amounts of the first few milestones are so generous.
NASA’s CCiCap program is designed to hand off responsibility for transporting U.S. astronauts to destinations in low-earth-orbit, primarily to the International Space Station (ISS). NASA announced CCiCap participating companies on Aug. 3, 2012. Although NASA has yet to publicly release the CCiCap milestones and award amounts, that information has been made public thanks to the efforts of Doug Messier’s Parabolic Arc.
The first four months of the 20 month CCiCap program appears to some to be front-loaded in the manner in which milestone awards are scheduled. Within the first 4 months, SpaceX will receive $165 million, or 37.5 percent of its total award amount, for reaching the first four of the firm’s 14 CCiCap milestones; Boeing will receive $126.9 million, or 35.3 percent of its total CCiCap funding, for reaching the first three of its milestones; Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) will receive $75 million, or 27.6 percent of its CCiCap funding, for reaching the two of its milestones.
The first two CCiCap milestones for SpaceX have garnered the most interest by those questioning NASA’s rationale in creating the CCiCap milestone schedule and awards:
- CCiCap Kickoff Meeting. SpaceX will hold a kickoff meeting at the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, CA, or a nearby facility to review the current state of existing hardware, processes and designs, describe plans for CCiCap program execution during both the base period and the optional period and lay the groundwork for a successful partnership between NASA and SpaceX. Scheduled: August 2012 Award: $60 million
- Financial and Business Review. SpaceX will hold a financial and business review to accomplish verification of financial ability to meet NASA’s stated goals for the CCiCap program by providing NASA insight into SpaceX finances. Scheduled: August 2012 Award: $20 million
A review of the CCDev 2 Milestone Schedule provides a better appreciation of how much larger and front-loaded the CCiCap funding levels appear to be. When the same companies, SpaceX, Boeing, and Sierra Nevada, completed the first milestone under the second phase of the Commercial Crew Development (CCDev2) contract, the awards were as follows: SpaceX $10 million, Boeing $10 million, and Sierra Nevada Corporation $12.5 million. The second milestone awards for CCDev 2 were SpaceX $5 million, Boeing $10 million, and Sierra Nevada $2.5 million. In the first four months of CCDev 2, the first 4-5 milestones had been reached and the companies had been awarded, SpaceX $40 million, Boeing $42.5 million, and Sierra Nevada $30 million. Because the speed at which CCiCap awards are paced dwarf those CCDev 2, concerns are being raised in Congress and in the aerospace industry as to the manner in which the CCiCap milestones schedule was developed.
Because the CCiCap announcement by NASA was made after Congress had adjourned on Friday, August 1, neither the House of Representatives nor the Senate have had an opportunity to reaction to news of the CCiCap participants nor the awards milestones. There are already rumblings of a closer look by Congress when it returns as to who and how the CCiCap milestone dates and awards were created.
After SpaceX sent the milestone chart provided, it was asked for clarification regarding the dates and amounts for the milestones listed above. SpaceX has not responded to these repeated requests.