[FPSPACE] Study backs COTS[Scanned by MAIL]
Matula, Thomas L.
MATULAT at uhv.edu
Mon Feb 12 13:47:39 EST 2007
The alleged purpose of the X-Prize was to reward someone who built a passenger carrying spacecraft. That is why the rules stated the vehicle had three seats, not one. The clear intent was that whomever won would have a vehicle that would be immediately available for entering space tourism service. Instead SS1 was turned into an instant hanger queen and SS2, which has yet to fly, has all appearances of being a very different spacecraft. From all appearances its as different from SS1 as the CEV is from the Apollo CM. Outward the same lines, inward completely different. Its different enough it will have to undergo a rigorous and long test program BEFORE the first tourist ever sets foot in it. Supposedly this was what the X-Prize craft was supposed to have provided.
If the X-Prize was supposed to start a sub-orbital tourist industry it appears to have failed. Today there are only three viable firms, Blue Origins that has had nothing to do with the X-Prize, Virgin Galactic which may commericalize Burt Rutans airframe design and Kistler/Rocketplane, which is being swallowed by its COTS commitments (BTW alt.space advocates have been strangely quiet on how Kistler has brought in ATK who is building the Ares I as their lead contractor for COTS
). All have dates for the first passenger flights that are receding into the future.
Case in point, a Press Release from Scaled Composites when the Virgin Galactic contract was signed.
Note the start date?
[[[Virgin has formed Virgin Galactic (V.G.) a new company, which will become the worlds first commercial space tourism operator. It is envisaged that Virgin Galactic will open for business by the beginning of 2005 and subject to the necessary safety and regulatory approvals begin operating flights from 2007.]]]
Its 2007, where is the boarding gate call for the first flights? For that matter where is the SS2 prototype? And what is the current start date (today) for space tourist service? 2009? 2010?
Actually, I wonder if Sir Richard will stay the course given his new interest in environmental protection and the heat he is starting to get about the potential environmental impact from his space tourist business.
Branson defends space trips at eco-prize launch
By Steve Connor, Science Editor
Published: 10 February 2007
>From the article.
[[[Tony Juniper, director of Friends of the Earth, welcomed the initiative but warned that more should be done to encourage more environmentally friendly forms of travel. "Many of the ways of tackling climate change, such as energy efficiency and renewables, already exist, and it is essential that these are implemented as soon as possible. We cannot afford to wait for futuristic solutions which may never materialise," Mr Juniper said.
"Sir Richard must also look at his business activities and the contribution they make to climate change. The world will find it very difficult to tackle climate change if air travel continues to expand and space tourism is developed," he added.]]]
One must wonder if the X-Prize will in the long run be seen by everyone as a dry hole for space commerce, especially if Virgin Galactic backs out from environmental reasons.
The same is true for the Launch Purchases Act. Before the Act NASA planned on using ELVs from Boeing, and Lockheed for its planetary missions (liquid fuel rocket having been banned from the Shuttle cargo bay). After the Launch Purchases Act NASA started using ELVs from Boeing and Lockheed for its missions. The only difference was before NASA bought the rocket and was responsible for its launch, afterward the firms retained ownership and were responsible for its launch. In short the name on the badges of the launch crew changed, but little else. There appears to have been NO increase in demand or reduction in cost as advocates for the Act claimed there would be. So the impact of the Act on space commerce was??? Or was it a dry hole?
So I stand by my prediction that COTS will be another dry hole for space commerce. Of course this wont stop the alt.space advocates from whining for more of the NASA budget for their pet alt.space firms or claiming NASA is standing in the way of their ambitions. Its interesting that you are already hedging your bet by claiming that the COTS rules were not what the firms wanted.
If space is going to be developed economically, it will be using the same economic development tools of government investment in public/private infrastructure projects that were used to develop the American Frontier. The Internet and to create the current global economy. Only then will the space Econsystem be primed for space entrepreneurs to prosper beyond GEO.
BTW over the years I have had more then one government procurement manager in my graduate marketing classes and the issue isnt just space procurement or even just aerospace. Its the nature of the challenge of government procurement itself. Government procurement has always been a complex trade-off of protecting the publics money for business that fail to deliver the services promised, versus making it easier to sell to the government. One big problem with procurement is that many of the government needs are unique without commercial counterparts or even precedent (like ISS)/ Really it gets just as complex sometimes if Uncle Sam is buying cement for a sidewalk or new computers for a rec hall on base. And that is with real Commercial Off The Shelf (what COTS stands for in the business world
So the procurement rules issues you state are complex and need to be addressed, but not in the way you claim they should be for space. It must be globally for the way government works in general. But also remember they developed as results of procurement scandals in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s
. Government procurement has always been a complex trade-off of protecting the publics money for business that fail to deliver the services promised, versus making it easier to sell to the government. One big problem with procurement is that many of the government needs are unique without commercial counterparts or even precedent (like ISS).
You also mentioned the X-1/F-100 example. It took 29 years from the date of the X-1 to get the Concorde into scheduled service. And it never made a profit. And today there is no supersonic passenger service anywhere. Perhaps that is also the future of suborbital tourism? Something for alt.space advocates to think about.
Sorry to be the one Ben, but someone needs to make the statement that the Emperors new cloths look a little threadbare
Same is true for alt.space at the moment, all hype aside.
From: fpspace-bounces at friends-partners.org on behalf of "Benigno Muñiz Jr."
Sent: Mon 2/12/2007 1:03 AM
To: fpspace at friends-partners.org
Subject: Re: [FPSPACE] Study backs COTS[Scanned by MAIL]
At 10:55 AM 10-02-07, Matula, Thomas L. wrote:
>I wouldn't worry about COTS too much. In order to actually receive
>the money the firms must meet specific performance requirements.
>Given the actual track record of Alt.Space that is unlikely.
>Remember the sky was supposed to be filled with space tourism
>vehicles after the X-Prize. Its now almost three years and the space
>tourist services are dreams of the future, and the dates continue to
>be pushed forward to when they will actually start service.
Speaking for myself, I'm not quite sure what commercial cargo
services for ISS have to do with SS1 & X-Prize, but I'm fairly sure
the principals involved in the latter were a bit more circumspect in
their predictions than you state.
I personally think progress on the sub-orbital front should be viewed
through the lens of SS1 as a commercial X-vehicle. The X-1 achieved
level controlled flight > M=1 in 1947. The supersonic F-100 entered
service 7 years later in 1954. Although the private sector lacks the
resources of the US govt., I think perhaps they can deliver
commercial suborbital service in less time than that.
>BTW here is a very pragmatic and detailed assessment of NASA's real
>motives for COTS.
While I agree with some aspects of Dr. Bell's analysis, some of his
comments are self-contradictory, some appear to be ill-informed, and
nowhere does his essay actually talk about how an ISS commercial
cargo program should actually take shape.
>Of course, this procurement model is exactly what the alt.space
>community have been advocating for years. The abolition of cost-plus
>contracts and the associated onerous accounting and reporting rules
>has been one of their pet gimmicks for reducing launch costs.
This is an overly simplistic view. While procurement reform is one
of the issues that has been raised in reducing space costs, it is not
the only nor even the primary one. Nor is this a subject that only
the alt.space community is discussing, e.g.:
"The implicit but unmistakable transfer of risk to the contractor by
use of performance specifications is a critical concept. For example,
a NASA launch vehicle contractor historically would build hardware
and conduct launch operations in accordance with government-directed
specifications and standards. In effect, the government told the
contractor "how to" build the vehicle and "how to" conduct the
launch. Under performance specifications, the successful offeror may
well propose to launch that same spacecraft at a fixed cost, with
full refund in case of failure. This change recognizes that the
highest system performance specification is now the insertion of the
spacecraft into the proper orbit, and imports the concept of flight
insurance from the commercial spacecraft sector. In essence, the
hardware manufacturer becomes a service provider. The bottom line is
that successful offerors must now step up to greater levels of risk
on "bet the company" programs, which should result in innovative
solutions at relatively less expense to the customer." (ref:
Exploiting Acquisition Reforms for Profitable New Business Capture,
McAleese & Associates, P.C. <http://www.mcaleese.com/1670.htm>)
"The current satellite-acquisition process is broken.
Space-acquisition decision makers recently made policy changes in the
hope of solving two critical problems: increases in program costs and
schedule slips." (ref: Air & Space Power Journal - Summer 2004, Air
University Press, US Air Force.
Nor is this a new debate:
"Lower-tier firms have not yet benefited from procurement reforms
instituted by DOD and NASA. The continued application of traditional
government requirements and oversight, despite the reforms, has been
a direct deterrent to efforts to diversify into commercial markets.
Executives at lower-tier firms feel that prime contractors pass on or
"flow down" intrusive government requirements intact, sometimes
adding requirements of their own. There is a general perception that
the primes are unwilling to risk procuring systems or subsystems on a
commercial basis, even if the revised rules appear to permit it,
because of the risk of disqualification for not complying with
government requirements." (ref: U.S. Congress, Office of Technology
Assessment, The Lower Tiers of the Space Transportation Industrial
Base, OTA-BP-ISS-161 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing
Office, August 1995).
Also of note: "While oversight by government agencies and their
reporting requirements can indeed be burdensome, they clearly are not
the causes of the continuing miserable record of program stretch-outs
and cost growth ... A high-level independent technical review of the
program, undertaken in the late 1990s, found that the contractor,
trying to maintain cost and schedule, had skipped or postponed some
basic ground testing of the missile and its subsystems before
proceeding with the doomed missile shots." (ref: "What Has 35 Years
of Acquisition Reform Accomplished?", Proceedings, US Naval
Yet this is now news. I remember reading an editorial in AW&ST back
in the early 1980's that identified a lack of early testing as a key
problem in program schedule slips and cost overruns. At the time
program managers were pushing tests to the right to avoid getting
their programs cancelled by Congress if early scale & subsystem tests
didn't go exactly as planned (as sometime happens, especially in
cutting edge programs). One of the reasons that the space advocate
community embraced and supported the DC-X program was it's
"build-a-little, test-a-little approach" that many of the alt.space
companies are trying now. (ref: Space Access Update #26, 10/28/93
>What NASA is telling alt.space is: "You say you can do spaceflight
>cheaper than BoLockMartNorGrum if we relax the rules. OK, here is
>the amount of money you want and the rules you want. Now put up or
>shut up." When COTS proves to be a dismal failure, NASA will be able
>to point to it for decades as proof that old.space is the only way to fly.]]]
I'm not sure either of the COTS companies, nor some of the other
contenders, would agree that the COTS program had the rules they want.
>This is also good as not only will it assist funding shortfalls for
>the CEV but finally open up the debate to realistic models for space
>commerce development based on actual economic theory versus the "Ayn
>Rand" model of simply having NNASA give firms the money and "get out
>of our way" as many alt.space folks have advocated.
Again, the "get out of our way" point is an overly simplistic view of
But is seems to me one major economic factor space commerce
development would be the creation of a market for ISS cargo services,
similar to the one that exists for launch services.
"Space Is A Place, Not A Program"
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