Press Release

NASA Space Station Plan Good News for NewSpace Firms, Bad News for Cost-Plus Contractors

By SpaceRef Editor
September 20, 2005
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NASA Space Station Plan Good News for NewSpace Firms, Bad News for Cost-Plus Contractors

Los Angeles, CA, September 19, 2005 – The Space Frontier Foundation strongly applauded NASA’s plans to hire entrepreneurial companies to fly people and cargo to the International Space Station. While the focus in Washington is on NASA’s desire to send astronauts to the Moon and Mars using old-fashioned aerospace cost-plus contractors, the agency’s need to save money by getting out of the ISS support business is creating an opportunity for many exciting and innovative NewSpace firms.

“We have long argued there is no way NASA can both operate the Space Station and try to send people to the Moon and Mars on a budget without adopting commercial practices and working with the entrepreneurial NewSpace industry,” said Foundation co-founder Rick Tumlinson. “It is a happy irony that in order to feed the traditional cost-plus aerospace industry dinosaurs that NASA wants to build its new space ships, it has to enroll the new generation of space entrepreneurs to take over in Low Earth Orbit.”

The Foundation believes that NewSpace companies, and any other players who want to be paid for results rather than effort, should be permitted to prove themselves by carrying astronauts and supplies to the space station. While most of these firms are self- or investor-funded, government contracts and prizes could greatly accelerate their development and capabilities – to the benefit of all. In a dramatic break from past practices, NASA has explicitly called out ‘Commercial Crew/Cargo for ISS’ and said that its own proposed new Crew Exploration Vehicle will only be used for ISS “if needed.”

“Politically, this is a very risky move for NASA, as many who have long fed off the taxpayers are threatened,” said Bob Werb, Foundation Chairman. “The move, however small, towards market oriented programs is, for us, wonderful… and terrifying to those who thrive in the world of guaranteed profits.”

The Foundation is calling on the White House and Congress to aggressively defend these new initiatives. Money must be allocated and the agency’s tendency to make creeping changes which ultimately kill innovation must be blocked. The group is also calling on all pro-frontier groups and individuals to protect what they feel may be a revolutionary change in how America does business in space.

“After several decades of repeated failure, the cost-plus contractors are trying to persuade Congress and the media that their failed approach is somehow less risky than a free competitive marketplace,” said Werb.

He concluded: “We applaud those parts of the new plan concerning ISS re-supply, transportation, competition and pay-for-performance contracting because for the first time NASA is willing to give capitalism a try. For now, we choose to ignore the parts we don’t like because we’ve heard it all before.”

SpaceRef staff editor.