Author Topic: NASA told to slow down CRS payment schedule for Orbital's cargo runs  (Read 30380 times)


Offline sdsds

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Good article, Chris! The timing of this OIG investigation/report seems strange. With the next F9 still in qualification testing, having a nice Antares inventory seems like a good thing!

The article states, 'OIG claimed they have concerns the next launch still holds the “possibility” of incurring issues.' Is the OIG concerned with Antares issues, or with potential Cygnus issues? The latter interpretation is at least understandable. If future Dragon missions are delayed by its launcher's teething pains, a lot might hinge on the early success of Cygnus!
« Last Edit: 06/18/2013 07:43 AM by sdsds »
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Offline RocketmanUS

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This only proves we should have used the Atlas V and Delta IV as the commercial cargo supply launch vehicles. It would have increased the funding for the space craft as there would not have been a need for the new launch vehicles. New commercial launch vehicles could have been developed later with less risk to resupply missions. Or we could have had a third or even a forth supplier funded up throw demonstration flights ( might have canceled one or two of them if two suppliers were able to complete their demonstration flights before the other(s).

Either way if the delays are on the launcher or in space craft it is a bad image for Orbital. Their delay to 1st CRS is bad enough and NASA ( American people ) are paying for other flights without seeing the first one. >:(  :(

Nice reporting and Article Chris.
So ISS is or might be decommissioned in or around 2020?
Possible replacement(s) by commercial station(s) that might have something to do with this? Would be good for both NASA and CRS.

Online Chris Bergin

Thanks!

 Yeah, very strange timing.

 And RS - no chance the ISS will be deorbited in 2020. They just need to make 2025 or 2028 official.

Offline spectre9

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Seems fine to me.

NASA isn't allowed to "keep" money. They're not a bank.

Having to pay later would be very bad for NASA.

I think the report being referenced is hogwash.

Offline RocketmanUS

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Thanks!

 Yeah, very strange timing.

 And RS - no chance the ISS will be deorbited in 2020. They just need to make 2025 or 2028 official.
That's cool. That will give commercial plenty of time to get their stations up and running along with commercial cargo and crew. Also a transition time for government to use commercial stations as well.

So from sdsds question, is the problem with  Antares issues, or with potential Cygnus issues?

Seems fine to me.

NASA isn't allowed to "keep" money. They're not a bank.

Having to pay later would be very bad for NASA.

I think the report being referenced is hogwash.
It would be better for the government agency to pay latter. Less interest on the money borrowed and if the company can't launch then the money can be better spent else were.

Offline spectre9

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NASA is effectively investing in Orbital. Putting faith in them.

That's a good thing.

Just saying "ah well just give all the money to ULA" was never acceptable for this administration.

Spending money elsewhere? I'm not sure that's possible, it's still CRS money. The implication here is that NASA could just withhold the cash. I didn't think NASA was ever allowed to do that.

Online Chris Bergin



So from sdsds question, is the problem with  Antares issues, or with potential Cygnus issues?

I have no information that shows any issues to either. I would assume the OIG are using a weak "what if" scenario.

Offline manboy

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And RS - no chance the ISS will be deorbited in 2020. They just need to make 2025 or 2028 official.
Woot! That's good news!  :)
"Cheese has been sent into space before. But the same cheese has never been sent into space twice." - StephenB

Offline yg1968

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Here is a copy of the report by the NASA OIG on commercial cargo:
http://oig.nasa.gov/audits/reports/FY13/IG-13-016.pdf

Offline joek

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Good article, Chris! The timing of this OIG investigation/report seems strange. With the next F9 still in qualification testing, having a nice Antares inventory of seems like a good thing!

The article states, 'OIG claimed they have concerns the next launch still holds the “possibility” of incurring issues.' Is the OIG concerned with Antares issues, or with potential Cygnus issues? The latter interpretation is at least understandable. If future Dragon missions are delayed by its launcher's teething pains, a lot might hinge on the early success of Cygnus!

Part of the timing appears to be that the recommendations will have a significantly reduced effect if delayed for much longer.

The OIG's concern is the system; both Antares and Cygnus.  A large part of the report is devoted to a history of problems and delays with the COTS and CRS programs to emphasize the attendant risk, both programmatic and financial, of funding too far in advance of the systems being baked.

Part of the concern on NASA's part appears to be possible delays or disruption of other providers.  Specifically, the report mentions "Launch on Need" and "to ensure a second private company was financially “healthy” enough" as reasons for aggressive OSC payments.

Short version:
CRS: We need to hedge our bets.
OIG: We think you've hedged more than enough.

Offline QuantumG

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It's just NASA rewarding failure.. as usual.

Oh, you're behind schedule? Here's some more money.

SpaceX got the same deal.
I hear those things are awfully loud. It glides as softly as a cloud. What's it called? Monowhale!

Offline yg1968

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It's just NASA rewarding failure.. as usual.

Oh, you're behind schedule? Here's some more money.

SpaceX got the same deal.


It has nothing to do with failure. It's something similar to a percentage of completion contract. 

Offline QuantumG

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It's just NASA rewarding failure.. as usual.

Oh, you're behind schedule? Here's some more money.

SpaceX got the same deal.


It has nothing to do with failure. It's something similar to a percentage of completion contract. 

Yes, exactly. It should have something to do with failure. That's the OIG's point.
I hear those things are awfully loud. It glides as softly as a cloud. What's it called? Monowhale!

Online macpacheco

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It's just NASA rewarding failure.. as usual.

Oh, you're behind schedule? Here's some more money.

SpaceX got the same deal.

The CRS program has several goals that are hit without a launch, achieving them trigger some payments. This has nothing to do with failure.

It's a simple reminiscent of the real sweetheart cost plus funding structure that most military development contracts get. We (NASA) are asking you (SpaceX/Orbital) to go through all of those hoops to satisfy us that you're on the right track, and as you manage to jump each hoop, here's some money.

The opposite would have been to only pay them per payload actually delivered to the ISS, requiring each CRS contractor to invest in the ballpark of a billion USD plus before getting any payment back.

Doing that would make it so much easier for ULA to get those contracts since they have deep pockets.

The amounts paid to SpaceX for all the benchmarks plus 3 CRS missions amount to far less than the real costs of a single shuttle launch. With money left to send 3 astronauts with the Russians in the meantime, and there's still money left.
Looking for companies doing great things for much more than money

Offline RocketmanUS

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It's just NASA rewarding failure.. as usual.

Oh, you're behind schedule? Here's some more money.

SpaceX got the same deal.

The CRS program has several goals that are hit without a launch, achieving them trigger some payments. This has nothing to do with failure.

It's a simple reminiscent of the real sweetheart cost plus funding structure that most military development contracts get. We (NASA) are asking you (SpaceX/Orbital) to go through all of those hoops to satisfy us that you're on the right track, and as you manage to jump each hoop, here's some money.

The opposite would have been to only pay them per payload actually delivered to the ISS, requiring each CRS contractor to invest in the ballpark of a billion USD plus before getting any payment back.

Doing that would make it so much easier for ULA to get those contracts since they have deep pockets.

The amounts paid to SpaceX for all the benchmarks plus 3 CRS missions amount to far less than the real costs of a single shuttle launch. With money left to send 3 astronauts with the Russians in the meantime, and there's still money left.
However why would NASA pay Orbital for some of flight 3 and 4 when they haven't even had demo flight 1 yet.

This is part of the problem that a company is getting paid to do work on a launch flight that might not even work. This is why they should have waited till after the demo flights before starting the CRS contracts.

Both companies were behind in their demo flights by a major margin. NASA needed to keep a closer eye on both of them. Rocketplane Kistler lost it's COTS contract for falling behind on their milestones but these other two did not. That is very interesting and how Orbital has gotten funds for CRS without having their demo flights. ( the first flight was for the launcher )

Offline QuantumG

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Yep. "Demonstrate before contract" was a bluff. The partners called.

NASA's claim that it would have taken longer to get to first delivery is nothing but alternate history science fiction. If they had stuck to the plan, it's just as likely that one of the COTS partners would have pulled out and the sole remaining partner could have gotten the additional funding.. and a strong motivation to actually deliver on schedule. Or a million other things...

I hear those things are awfully loud. It glides as softly as a cloud. What's it called? Monowhale!

Offline john smith 19

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Here's NASA scoring an own goal it seems:

http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2013/06/nasa-told-slow-down-crs-payment-orbitals-cargo-runs/

From the article
"the company is on track to receive up to 70 percent of the funds associated with six of its eight CRS missions prior to having flown a demonstration flight.”
What???

They are going to bank 70% of the cash for 75% of their  contract without delivering a single Kg of payload to the ISS?

This is just wrong.  AFAIK Antares is still in development. The actual delivery contract should not have started paying them until they actually started delivering stuff.

The obvious question is are Spacex on these terms as well? Because they seem exceptionally generous by the standards of a commercial contract and NASA should not have signed it with either of them.   :(
« Last Edit: 06/18/2013 08:17 AM by john smith 19 »
BFS. The worlds first Methane fueled FFORSC engined CFRP structured A380 sized aerospaceplane tail sitter capable of flying in Earth and Mars atmospheres. BFR. The worlds biggest Methane fueled FFORSC engined CFRP structured booster for BFS. First flight to Mars by end of 2022. Forward looking statements. T&C apply. Believe no one. Run your own numbers. So, you are going to Mars to start a better life? Picture it in your mind. Now say what it is out loud.

Offline sdsds

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From the article
"the company is on track to receive up to 70 percent of the funds associated with six of its eight CRS missions prior to having flown a demonstration flight.”
What???

They are going to bank 70% of the cash for 75% of their  contract without delivering a single Kg of payload to the ISS?

Quote from: OIG
in the event the contract needs to be terminated for cause, all CRS payments are recoverable.

So yes, Orbital gets to "bank" the cash, but they have to give it back if they mess up. In return, NASA gets the assurance that the hardware for those later missions has started down the production pipeline. Gerstenmaier says the resulting reduction in "programmatic risk" is quite valuable ... and he would know!
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Offline john smith 19

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It's a simple reminiscent of the real sweetheart cost plus funding structure that most military development contracts get. We (NASA) are asking you (SpaceX/Orbital) to go through all of those hoops to satisfy us that you're on the right track, and as you manage to jump each hoop, here's some money.
Not so. COTS was the development programme, where they were supposed to by doing the R&D. It was under Space Act Agreements and it was a case of "No milestone, no payment."

Quote
The opposite would have been to only pay them per payload actually delivered to the ISS, requiring each CRS contractor to invest in the ballpark of a billion USD plus before getting any payment back.
Well that's what the COTS programme was for.
Quote
Doing that would make it so much easier for ULA to get those contracts since they have deep pockets.

The amounts paid to SpaceX for all the benchmarks plus 3 CRS missions amount to far less than the real costs of a single shuttle launch. With money left to send 3 astronauts with the Russians in the meantime, and there's still money left.
True. Spacex comes out streets ahead of Orion and even Antares has managed a launch of a "Cygnus simulator," which right now is more than Orion has managed (or will for a couple of more years).

And RS - no chance the ISS will be deorbited in 2020. They just need to make 2025 or 2028 official.
That would excellent news. It would eliminate a lot of doubt. 8-11 of years of CCiCAP astronaut transport.
« Last Edit: 06/18/2013 08:56 AM by john smith 19 »
BFS. The worlds first Methane fueled FFORSC engined CFRP structured A380 sized aerospaceplane tail sitter capable of flying in Earth and Mars atmospheres. BFR. The worlds biggest Methane fueled FFORSC engined CFRP structured booster for BFS. First flight to Mars by end of 2022. Forward looking statements. T&C apply. Believe no one. Run your own numbers. So, you are going to Mars to start a better life? Picture it in your mind. Now say what it is out loud.

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