NASA commercial crew and cargo manager Alan Lindemoyer wasn't kidding when he said at last week's 3rd space exploration conference that the space operations mission directorate's draft Request For Proposals for International Space Station resupply would be published soon
Bleary eyed and back in the UK yesterday morning after a Friday spent with Alliant Techsystems in Utah and a weekend travelling, I finally had a look today at the DRFP and was interested to spot the following that looked eerily like something that could be called COTS phase three
"In addition, NASA would like to clarify how ISS integration will be performed for offerors who are awarded an ISS [Commercial Resupply Services] contract. This procurement does not include or fund the integration activities. ISS integration will be administered separately through Space Act agreements that will be managed by the Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office. NASA will enter into integration agreements when companies’ technology development achieves a specified level of maturity, either through independent industry development or through joint NASA-industry activities, including the COTS Phase 1 activities. More explanation of this relationship will be provided during the scheduled pre-proposal conference mentioned below."
So the questions are, are they funded ISS integration SAA (iSAA) and what is the "specified level of maturity"?
I guess more will be known come the 17 March pre-proposal conference but when did a matter of two weeks ever stop anyone from speculating wildly?
Under the NASA guidelines its commercially procured cargo "berth" at the ISS, not dock, which is what the Russians and ESA's Automated Transfer Vehicle [will] do. Berth meanwhile means they fly within a few metres of the station and are grabbed by a robotic arm. You can see this reflected in all the published COTS bids
What you also see are lots of uses of the USAF's Experimental Small Satellite (XSS)-11 and NASA's DART missions' rendezvous and proximity operations technologies. That pretty much is the level of technological maturity the COTS competitors have at the moment
So having had COTS phase one with ESMD, SOMD's ISS resupply aka COTS phase two, we now appear to have COTS phase three
It is odd that NASA says that the iSAA process is to be conducted separately from SOMDs resupply procurement especially when you would think that you would need that "last mile" technology or some level of maturity to get the resupply contract. Unless a subcontractor supplying the berthing tech can be the iSAA partner and not the CRS prime selected by SOMD? And does the inclusion of COTS phase one as a part of this iSAA mean that ESMD will actually be the part of NASA overseeing this last mile development?
A few things to think about before the "anticipated release date" of the RFP around 14 April and the proposal due date of 15 June