Monday, February 26, 2018

Science & the CSA Don't Need More Money to Keep Things the Same; They Need New Procurement Methodologies

         By Chuck Black

Last fall, as part of the October 26th, 2017 post, "A Quick Overview of the Next Few Expected Federal Announcements Concerning the Canadian Space Industry," this blog suggested that the most likely scenario for budget day 2018 would be for the Federal government to allocate a few tens of millions of dollars in additional funding to the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) in order to move forward with preliminary work on possible contributions to the US led "Deep Space Gateway," and maybe also fund a few other interesting projects.

The new funding would counteract the growing domestic perception that Canada is falling behind other nations and missing out on a host of potential telecom, Earth imaging and other innovations derived from space focused technology.

And while the new funding wouldn't be nearly as as substantial as the $120Mln CDN provided by the Stephen Harper conservatives for rovers and "next generation Canadarm" research under the 2009 Economic Action Plan or replace the slowly winding down RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) funding, it would be enough to keep space focused academics and industry subcontractors from bolting the Liberal party before the next Federal election.

But that's not really what we need.

Now that the 2018 budget is only a day away, it's worth noting that the current American renaissance in space focused technology and rocketry had almost nothing to do with additional US government funding for NASA and almost everything to do with the implementation of procurement methodologies such as NASA's contracts under its various space act agreements, including its commercial orbital transportation services (COTS) program, which was the key to moving forward with projects developed through Hawthorne, CA based SpaceX and its series of Falcon rockets.

For example, it's noteworthy that NASA is simply unable to compete, or even understand SpaceX development costs for the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 rockets.

As outlined in the August 2011 NASA Associate Deputy Administrator for Policy paper under the title, "Falcon 9 Launch Vehicle NAFCOM Cost Estimates," NASA was essentially unable to explain, when using the standard “NASA‐Air Force Cost Modeling” methodology, why Falcon 1 Launch vehicle development costs were actually approximately $300Mln US ($380Mln CDN), when the Air force model indicated that development costs would be between $1.7Bln and $4Bln USD ($2.16Bln and $5.07Bln CDN).

Not that there was anything wrong with that. According to the article “NASA has verified these costs” as provided by SpaceX, which suggests that the NASA cost modeling has substantial gaps and errors.

In essence, the NASA model is totally clueless, much like the current Canadian procurement model.

Until we revise it, our space program will be unable to move forward, no matter how much money we might want to throw at it.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

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