Commercial Crew to LEO

NASA’s FY2011 budget proposes investing $6 billion over 5 years to develop multiple commercial capabilities to transport crew to the International Space Station in Low Earth Orbit, a program known as the Commercial Crew Program.

1. Benefits of Commercial Crew:

• Reduce America’s dependence on paying Russia to transport our astronauts following Space Shuttle retirement,
• Enhance the utilization of the International Space Station,
• Shorten the U.S. spaceflight gap by leveraging existing vehicles and hardware,
• Create thousands of high-tech jobs,
• Free up NASA’s own resources for more challenging endeavours beyond Low Earth Orbit.

2. Job Creation:

Results released in April 2010 by The Tauri Group, an independent, analytic consulting firm based in Alexandria, Virginia, reveal that the new NASA Commercial Crew and Cargo Program funding in the President’s FY2011 Budget Request will result in an average of 11,800 direct jobs per year over the next five years, nationwide. The Tauri Group study was commissioned by the Commercial Spaceflight Federation for an objective estimate of jobs resulting from NASA’s proposed spending of $5.8 billion on Commercial Crew and an additional $312 million on Commercial Cargo from FY2011 to FY2015. Click here to download the detailed version of the Tauri Group study [pdf].

3. Endorsement by the Augustine Committee:

NASA investment in a Commercial Crew Program has been endorsed by the final report of the Augustine Committee (the White House Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee) led by aerospace executive Norm Augustine and including astronauts, scientists, and other industry experts:

The time is right: The Augustine Committee report stated, “Commercial services to deliver crew to low-Earth orbit are within reach. … A new competition with adequate incentives should be open to all U.S. aerospace companies. This would allow NASA to focus on more challenging roles, including human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit…”
Industry is capable: The Augustine report stated, “There is little doubt that the U.S. aerospace industry, from historical builders of human spacecraft to the new entrants, has the technical capability to build and operate a crew taxi to low-Earth orbit.”
Commercial is safe: The Augustine report stated, “Any concepts falling short in human safety have simply been eliminated from consideration.” Later, the report added, “The Committee… would not suggest that a commercial service be provided for transportation of NASA crew if NASA could not be convinced that it was substantially safe.”
A diverse set of competitors exist: The Augustine report stated, “During its fact-finding process, the Committee received proprietary information from five different companies interested in the provision of commercial crew transportation services to low-Earth orbit. These included large and small companies, some of which have previously developed crew systems for NASA.”

4. For More Information:

Commercial Crew One-Pager: Click here to download a one-page briefing [pdf] describing the benefits of the NASA Commercial Crew Program.

CSF Congressional Testimony: The former President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, Bretton Alexander, testified before the Space Subcommittee of the House Science Committee on the topic of commercial spaceflight in December 2009. For more details, click here.

Policy Proposal to Augustine Committee: During the Augustine Committee’s deliberations in summer 2009, members of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation formally submitted a policy proposal, titled “Commercial Spaceflight in Low Earth Orbit is the Key to Affordable and Sustainable Exploration Beyond,” to the Augustine Committee. Download the full policy paper here [pdf].