Interview: NASA’s New Rules for Manned Private Spaceflight

By Joe Pappalardo

Our report on NASA’s new contract detailing the rules for crew-carrying spacecraft features the insights of Philip McAlister, director of NASA’s Commercial Spaceflight Development. Here, we offer the full transcript of our Oct. 12 interview with McAlister, in which he details how NASA is trying to change the way it does business. (Light edits were made for clarity.)

Q

We’re interested in how NASA and private space are going to go forward as we go from cargo to crew contracts. Will there will be any sort of differences in the approach? I grabbed the draft request for proposal (RFP), and it seems like things will be done a little bit differently.

A

Yeah. There’s some big differences in the way we’re going about doing the crew part as opposed to the cargo part . . . I will give you what we see as the unique features associated with this draft RFP that’s clearly something that I think going forward is going to be the most interesting.

So the cargo [program] was started back in 2005, and we used an innovative mechanism called a Space Act Agreement. It’s similar to a grant in that we give, we provide funding to companies to develop a capability. It’s not necessarily to perform a NASA mission requirement—it’s to really just enable a capability, help a public purpose, maybe support the overall commercial development of space, which is also in NASA’s overall mission.

We didn’t have a requirement at that time for cargo transportation. We were going to use the international systems, which are the Russian process for cargo delivery, the European automated transfer vehicle, and the Japanese HTV, which is the H2 Transfer Vehicle. We had all those in the mix, and NASA was in the process of developing its Constellation architecture, and we were also going to use that to help resupply the space station. So this cargo program was really kind of . . . I don’t want to say a gamble, but it was kind of a backup option to all those other sorts of things.

Credit: Popular Sciene

Read more: Interview: NASA’s New Rules for Private Companies and Their Human-Carrying Spacecraft – Popular Mechanics

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