Courtesy NASA
A few weeks back I wrote in this blog that NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) was a typical government pork-barrel travesty, and should be scrapped. While that bloated boondoggle is still being voted funds by Congress, NASA, along with the organization Space Florida, has also put new money and public relations muscle behind commercial initiatives as well.

Frank Morring at Aviation Week reports that "Boeing will receive $40-50 million in incentives from the State of Florida [through Space Florida] to build and refurbish its proposed CST-100 commercial crew capsule inside surplus space shuttle facilities at Kennedy Space Center (KSC), as the NASA field center begins to accommodate the mix of public and private spacecraft that will follow the winged spaceplane."

This is not the perfect free-market solution I was ranting for in the previous post, but it is clearly a step in the right direction. Florida is hurting, with the layoffs of the Shuttle workforce. But they have incredible space assets that should not be squandered. So this is a jobs program, once again, but at least it has the right title: "CST-100 commercial crew capsule."

The Boeing project is part of NASA's Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program. As Florida Today reports, "The CST-100 is one of four commercial spacecraft whose development NASA helped support with $270 million this year, with Blue Origin, Sierra Nevada Corp. and SpaceX also awarded funding. The next round of NASA funding is planned next summer."

This type of public-private partnership is the way to fund space development, instead of some massive, government-dictated doomed-to-failure unworkable solution like the Space Launch System. While Boeing is a traditional "OldSpace" participant in the military-industrial complex, three NewSpace contenders are given equal opportunity to compete and demonstrate competence.

But old habits die hard. With all their talk of free market solutions, Congresspeople remain more comfortable funding traditional pork-barrel jobs programs than engaging in the same type of public-private partnerships that created railroads, airmail service, and hydroelectric dams among other useful infrasctructure assets we currently enjoy. Florida Today continues: "But the agency [NASA] says limited congressional support could mean it takes longer for the commercial sector to begin crewed station flights, now targeted for 2016. The Obama administration requested $850 million for the program in 2012, but the House and Senate have offered $312 million and $500 million, respectively."

So, the tide is turning, but slowly, painfully, and arthritically. We are not going to witness free-market forces coming into their own overnight at NASA, but these are definitely steps in the right direction. Now, if only all the companies participating in the CCDev program would adopt comprehensive strategic sourcing initiatives, saving the companies and the taxpayers even more money....
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Alex Howerton

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