Author Topic: Space Launch Services - NASA - US General Statutes 'ie The Law'  (Read 3596 times)

Offline Cherokee43v6

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After a disagreement between myself and Jim took over one of the article discussions, I figured there was enough interest to move it to its own thread and thereby leave the other thread to the discussion of Chris' great article.

To that end, I am appending the following link to at least one relevant General statute:

http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/uscode/42/141/II/14731

This is the law that specifically directs NASA to use commercial providers unless such service is not available from U.S. commercial providers.

Quote
Except as otherwise provided in this section, the Federal
Government shall acquire space transportation services from United
States commercial providers whenever such services are required in
the course of its activities. To the maximum extent practicable,
the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space
transportation services capabilities of United States commercial
providers.

There is a long list of exceptions appended to the listed law.

One key thing of import to note.  Nowhere in this law is NASA proscribed from selling a NASA unique launch service to the commercial sector.  Therefore, if no commercial provider has a heavy lift launcher, and a private company wishes to purchase a heavy lift flight from a NASA unique heavy lift launcher, there do not appear to be any limitations (at least in this statute) to NASA selling the private company that service.
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Offline Jim

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a private company wishes to purchase a heavy lift flight

There is your flaw.  That is not going to happen.  No need for commercial heavy lift.

Offline Cherokee43v6

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a private company wishes to purchase a heavy lift flight

There is your flaw.  That is not going to happen.  No need for commercial heavy lift.

Why not?  As indicated, at least one private entity has already sketched up plans for a 70 ton payload.

What makes your crystal ball the only one with a true view of the future?

Besides your argument that lead to this thread was that NASA was prohibited from selling a launch on such a vehicle, not that no payload existed.  I'll be happy to start a 70 ton payload daydream thread if you like.  In the meantime, can you find a specific U.S. General Statute that prohibits NASA from selling a unique service?
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Offline TimL

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IMO, it's namely that NASA is a Federal Agency and not a business. As such, it can't sell "its" product because the property belongs to the taxpayer. The Space Act doesn't authorize NASA to buy a product from a commercial entity and then resell it for either a profit or loss. That's the curse of government organizations, they belong to the people, not a board room & its business model. The Federal government is prohibited from competing with the commercial market on many many levels.
« Last Edit: 03/25/2011 02:19 PM by TimL »
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Offline Jim

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In the meantime, can you find a specific U.S. General Statute that prohibits NASA from selling a unique service?

Not a statue, but another road block.  NASA doesn't get to keep the money that it would receive in providing such a service.  It would go to the US treasury general fund.

This means;
a.  The launch doesn't provide more income for NASA
b.  It actually costs NASA money, since it would have to fund the launch

Offline Jim

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1.  Why not?  As indicated, at least one private entity has already sketched up plans for a 70 ton payload.

2.  What makes your crystal ball the only one with a true view of the future?


1.  And so have many in the past.  It means nothing, just like a daydream. 

2.  It is not a crystal ball, it is called knowledge and insight.  And my view is still a positive one.  NASA at least still exists.

Market drives capabilities and not the other way around.  There aren't even any commercial spacecraft that use the full capabilities of existing vehicles.
« Last Edit: 03/25/2011 02:29 PM by Jim »

Offline Cherokee43v6

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Except that up through the mid 1980's that is the exact model that NASA followed. 

The move to privatize rocket launches began in the wake of the CHALLENGER disaster.  Prior to that commercial satellite launches were bought from the government providers.

In addition, I would ask how selling a unique capability to launch is different from renting out KSC facilities to private launch companies?
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Offline Jim

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1.Except that up through the mid 1980's that is the exact model that NASA followed. 

The move to privatize rocket launches began in the wake of the CHALLENGER disaster.  Prior to that commercial satellite launches were bought from the government providers.

2.  In addition, I would ask how selling a unique capability to launch is different from renting out KSC facilities to private launch companies?

1.  And NASA didn't care about the money it was bleeding out in subsidizing commercial spacecraft.  NASA just wanted to fly the shuttle and what it flew didn't matter.

2.  different rules apply.  It isn't "renting".  The user is paying for the contractor support.  Not the same thing in creating a vehicle and selling it.

Don't bother, you are going to lose this one.

Offline Cherokee43v6

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In the meantime, can you find a specific U.S. General Statute that prohibits NASA from selling a unique service?

Not a statue, but another road block.  NASA doesn't get to keep the money that it would receive in providing such a service.  It would go to the US treasury general fund.

This means;
a.  The launch doesn't provide more income for NASA
b.  It actually costs NASA money, since it would have to fund the launch

I would beg to differ on 'b'.  That would be entirely dependent on what NASA chose to charge for such a launch.  At the bare minimum I would expect:
1)cost of vehicle
2)cost of fuel
3)cost of manpower dedicated to launch

Now, whether there is anything extra tacked on as a 'profit margin' is dependent upon what the law allows, more than likely, this would be prohibited.  The amounts in question relating to NASA getting the money are the payroll and profit elements.  Ideally, the customer would pay the sources directly for the equipment and fuel, eliminating the need for NASA to be middleman.

Besides, if NASA could point to it and say 'SEE NASA is paying money into the coffers', it might win over more support for big plans. :)
"I didn't open the can of worms...
        ...I just pointed at it and laughed a little too loudly."

Offline Lurker Steve

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a private company wishes to purchase a heavy lift flight

There is your flaw.  That is not going to happen.  No need for commercial heavy lift.

Since NASA doesn't have the current capability to launch a 70 ton payload, it doesn't have a "service" to sell. And, if NASA and/or DoD don't have 70 ton payloads scheduled for launch in the "near" future, ie next 7-10 years or whatever reasonable timeframe it would take to develop the launcher, then it probably shouldn't pay for the development of a 70-100 ton launcher.

If some commerical company does have a 70 ton payload (Bigelow, I assume), then they should discuss with a commerical launch partner how they are going to get that beast into orbit. I'm sure Elon Musk doesn't care who the 2.5 Billion comes from, if he doesn't have to fund the development using his own cash.

Of course, once that capability existed, then NASA would be obligated to use it, once they had a mission that required a 70 ton payload.
« Last Edit: 03/25/2011 02:40 PM by Lurker Steve »

Offline Cherokee43v6

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a private company wishes to purchase a heavy lift flight

There is your flaw.  That is not going to happen.  No need for commercial heavy lift.

Since NASA doesn't have the current capability to launch a 70 ton payload, it doesn't have a "service" to sell. And, if NASA and/or DoD don't have 70 ton payloads scheduled for launch in the "near" future, ie next 7-10 years or whatever reasonable timeframe it would take to develop the launcher, then it probably shouldn't pay for the development of a 70-100 ton launcher.

If some commerical company does have a 70 ton payload (Bigelow, I assume), then they should discuss with a commerical launch partner how they are going to get that beast into orbit. I'm sure Elon Musk doesn't care who the 2.5 Billion comes from, if he doesn't have to fund the development using his own cash.

Of course, once that capability existed, then NASA would be obligated to use it, once they had a mission that required a 70 ton payload.


Except that Congress is mandating the launcher.  Quoting Senator Nelson's reaction to NASA's early statement that they didn't believe they could make the cost and time requirements.  "It is the law."  The authorization act from last november specifically demands this vehicle be designed and built. 

With that in mind, the question devolved to the great Coyote/Roadrunner scene where the Coyote catches the 50 foot tall Roadrunner and holds up the sign that reads: "Now What?"

But that is off topic from the subject of whether or not the LAW allows NASA to 'sell' a unique service.
"I didn't open the can of worms...
        ...I just pointed at it and laughed a little too loudly."

Offline Cherokee43v6

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1.Except that up through the mid 1980's that is the exact model that NASA followed. 

The move to privatize rocket launches began in the wake of the CHALLENGER disaster.  Prior to that commercial satellite launches were bought from the government providers.

2.  In addition, I would ask how selling a unique capability to launch is different from renting out KSC facilities to private launch companies?

1.  And NASA didn't care about the money it was bleeding out in subsidizing commercial spacecraft.  NASA just wanted to fly the shuttle and what it flew didn't matter.

2.  different rules apply.  It isn't "renting".  The user is paying for the contractor support.  Not the same thing in creating a vehicle and selling it.

Don't bother, you are going to lose this one.

I'm afraid that I don't see how a 'unique' service is different from the facilities rental in this case.  It is a service that is available from no other source.  Basically it is the same thing as an EELV or a Falcon 9 launching from the eastern range, in that it requires Range Support and clearances.  What is different is that the processing and launch operations would be handled by NASA staff (or contractors) instead of a private operation (a la SpaceX).

If everyone gave up when they were told they would lose we'd still be an English colony.  Until you actually back up your beliefs with the relevant statutes preventing such occurances what you say is solely your opinion.  It is your OPINION that this is not allowed. 

I have not yet found any written law prohibiting NASA from selling unique launch services, therefore it is my OPINION that nothing precludes it.  If the law doesn't cover something it is assumed to be legal until such times as laws are written to proscribe it.
"I didn't open the can of worms...
        ...I just pointed at it and laughed a little too loudly."

Offline Jim

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I would beg to differ on 'b'.  That would be entirely dependent on what NASA chose to charge for such a launch.  At the bare minimum I would expect:
1)cost of vehicle
2)cost of fuel
3)cost of manpower dedicated to launch

Now, whether there is anything extra tacked on as a 'profit margin' is dependent upon what the law allows, more than likely, this would be prohibited.  The amounts in question relating to NASA getting the money are the payroll and profit elements.  Ideally, the customer would pay the sources directly for the equipment and fuel, eliminating the need for NASA to be middleman.

Besides, if NASA could point to it and say 'SEE NASA is paying money into the coffers', it might win over more support for big plans. :)

Begging doesn't change the answer.  It still is a loss to NASA.

As far as NASA vehicle, NASA is the middle man.  If NASA is going to develop a vehicle, it is going to be the middle man.  That is how the organization works.




Offline Jim

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I'm afraid that I don't see how a 'unique' service is different from the facilities rental in this case.  It is a service that is available from no other source.  Basically it is the same thing as an EELV or a Falcon 9 launching from the eastern range, in that it requires Range Support and clearances.

 What is different is that the processing and launch operations would be handled by NASA staff (or contractors) instead of a private operation (a la SpaceX).



No, not the same thing.  The range doesn't buy hardware and you are ignoring the procurement of all the hardware of the NASA HLV.
The range is an airport (Which have fed workers and collect fees) , and EELV's and Spacex are airlines. 
To follow the same analogy, for SLS, NASA is Airbus and United Airlines.

« Last Edit: 03/25/2011 03:10 PM by Jim »

Offline Cherokee43v6

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I'm afraid that I don't see how a 'unique' service is different from the facilities rental in this case.  It is a service that is available from no other source.  Basically it is the same thing as an EELV or a Falcon 9 launching from the eastern range, in that it requires Range Support and clearances.

 What is different is that the processing and launch operations would be handled by NASA staff (or contractors) instead of a private operation (a la SpaceX).



No, not the same thing.  The range doesn't buy hardware and you are ignoring the procurement of all the hardware of the NASA HLV.
The range is an airport (Which have fed workers and collect fees) , and EELV's and Spacex are airlines. 
To follow the same analogy, for SLS, NASA is Airbus and United Airlines.



I am not ignoring it... reference quote below from roughly 5 messages back...
Quote
I would beg to differ on 'b'.  That would be entirely dependent on what NASA chose to charge for such a launch.  At the bare minimum I would expect:
1)cost of vehicle
2)cost of fuel
3)cost of manpower dedicated to launch

Now, whether there is anything extra tacked on as a 'profit margin' is dependent upon what the law allows, more than likely, this would be prohibited.  The amounts in question relating to NASA getting the money are the payroll and profit elements.  Ideally, the customer would pay the sources directly for the equipment and fuel, eliminating the need for NASA to be middleman.

Besides, if NASA could point to it and say 'SEE NASA is paying money into the coffers', it might win over more support for big plans. 
"I didn't open the can of worms...
        ...I just pointed at it and laughed a little too loudly."

Offline Danderman

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One key thing of import to note.  Nowhere in this law is NASA proscribed from selling a NASA unique launch service to the commercial sector.  Therefore, if no commercial provider has a heavy lift launcher, and a private company wishes to purchase a heavy lift flight from a NASA unique heavy lift launcher, there do not appear to be any limitations (at least in this statute) to NASA selling the private company that service.

I helped with the enactment of the initial version of this law, the Launch Services Purchase Act of 1990, enacted as Title II of the NASA Authorization of that year. This was the version with only one exception, that being the Shuttle.

I can tell you that Ron Packard, the author of the law, never envisioned there being any "NASA unique launch services" other than the Shuttle. And if there were some sort of NASA developed launch service out there, the idea that it would be used to compete with private launch services would be abhorrent to the drafters of the bill.

Note that Ronald Reagan banned the Shuttle from flying commercial payloads, for good reason.

Offline Cherokee43v6

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If it were competing, I could see that Danderman, but if it is truly unique, would you agree that using it to bridge to the development of a commercial option makes sense?

As Jim is fond of pointing out, there is not currently a commercial case for developing a 70 ton payload launcher.  BUT if the government had one, and a commercial entity developed a payload that would use it, you're saying it should not be used?

Until a market exists to justify a commercial launcher, one won't be developed commercially.  This means that if a commercial entity wants to launch a 70 ton payload he only has one choice, the government launcher.  Unless he has the deep pockets to not only develop his payload, but the launcher too.

As I recall from the debates about including the HLV in the authorization act, one of the arguments was: (I paraphrase) "Let commercial do what commercial is good at, let government do what commercial cannot or will not yet do."  That arguement to me sounds as if it is intended to 'create' an eventual demand.
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