Press Release

Commercial Crew Companies Review Safety Standards in Letter to Congress

By SpaceRef Editor
March 7, 2012
Filed under , ,
Commercial Crew Companies Review Safety Standards in Letter to Congress

Col. Jim Voss, Director of Advanced Programs at Sierra Nevada Corporation and Dr. Garrett Reisman, CCdev2 Project Manager at Space Exploration Technologies have responded today to a letter written by several Members of Congress to White House Science Advisor John Holdren regarding NASA’s Commercial Crew program.

Read the full text of the response below.

Congressman Pete Olson
312 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Congressman Olson,

We read with interest your February 29, 2012 letter to Dr. John Holdren regarding NASA’s Commercial Crew program to procure services to fly astronauts to the International Space Station on commercial vehicles.

You indicated that the safety of NASA’s astronauts is your paramount concern, and we share that concern. The commercial space industry has worked closely with NASA to ensure that the vehicles we are developing in cooperation with NASA will be the safest ever to fly, and as competitor in the program, we would like to update you on the many layers of safety we are using to accomplish that.

NASA has established safety standards that all commercial crew providers will have to meet before flying astronauts, and published them in its CCT-1100 series of documents. Regardless of the content of NASA’s Space Act Agreements for development stages of the competition, we are treating these documents as firm requirements. In fact, NASA has stated that certification of these vehicles will take place under a FAR contract, in parallel to development work, which provides an early and direct means for NASA to enforce requirements. Finally, Commercial Crew services will be procured under a FAR contract, and NASA will be verifying our compliance with the requirements, in detail. Under no circumstance will a NASA astronaut fly in a commercial vehicle until NASA has certified that the vehicle has met every safety requirement.

Of course, NASA is not alone in requiring strict safety standards. Our engineering teams feature engineers with many years of experience in developing safe and reliable vehicles, at NASA and in the private sector. Tapping that experience, we have established stringent internal controls to ensure we meet both NASA’s safety requirements and our own.

In addition, much like a redundant electronics system, the competitive nature of the Commercial Crew program means that if there is any doubt about the safety of a specific vehicle, there will be a safe alternative to fly astronauts to the Space Station, and return them to Earth. There will never be pressure to bypass safety in order to fly because there will be another option. With this redundant program design, multiple providers ensure that program risks do not become safety risks.

The multistage process that NASA is using for this program is modeled on the COTS program, in which Space Act Agreements were used in the development stages and firm, fixed-price contracts were used to procure services. In that program, both competitors will also be required to meet NASA’s stringent safety regulations for their vehicles to approach and dock with the Space Station.

We believe that the immediate development of safe and reliable access to the Space Station is a national priority and an important safety issue, as we are currently reliant on the Russian Soyuz, a single point of failure that puts the Space Station at risk. NASA’s flexible approach has been well-considered, and brings private investment to the effort, reducing costs and promoting an American industry without compromising safety. We would be happy to meet with you to discuss in more detail the measures we have in place to ensure we meet NASA’s safety requirements, and any other safety concerns you might have.


Col. Jim Voss, USAF Ret
Director of Advanced Programs
Sierra Nevada Corporation Space Systems
Former NASA Astronaut

Dr. Garrett Reisman
CCDev2 Project Manager
NASA Astronaut

cc: Congressman Steven Palazzo
Congressman Lamar Smith
Congressman Randy Hultgren
Congressman Steven LaTourette
Congressman Mo Brooks
Congressman Ted Poe
Dr. John Holdren

SpaceRef staff editor.