NASA, House compromise on awards for commercial crew development

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NASA has confirmed that the agency intends to make no more than two full awards and one half-sized award for the commercial crew integrated capability (CCiCap) programme, meant to stimulate a commercial transportation capability to low Earth orbit (LEO).

A statement released by Representative Frank Wolf (R-Virginia), chairman of the House committee on commerce, justice and science (CJS) cites a compromised hammered out through an exchange of letters with NASA administrator Charles Bolden.

"Per the exchange of letters with Chairman Wolf, it is NASA's intention to proceed with the CCiCAP awards this summer," says NASA. "As stated in the letter, NASA believes that having 2.5 partners (two full awards and one partial award) competing during the development phase will enable NASA to achieve safe, reliable and cost effective access to the International Space Station."

The compromise includes a commitment to fund CCiCap at the same level as the Senate agreed to, $525 million in FY2013 and an additional, similar amount in FY2014. In return, NASA promises that CCiCap will be the final round in which space act agreements (SAA) contracting mechanisms are used, to be replaced by the more restrictive federal acquisition regulation (FAR)-based contracts.

 ccdev, boeing

 ©Boeing

The shift to FAR contracts means that NASA will be more heavily involved in certifying contractor equipment, and will buy and operate the rocket, as opposed to simply buying the launch service and allowing the contractor to operate the rocket.

The CJS committee included language in its reauthorization of NASA's FY2013 budget that strongly suggested a downselect to a single competitor.

"This is the best way forward for the American taxpayer," says Rep. Wolf's office, "this is the best way to keep the programme alive."