Today at COMSTAC, Brant Sponberg mentioned that NASA was going to be releasing a “procurement synopsis” this week discussing the various commercial space station resupply options that NASA wants to explore. This isn’t the full-up RFP that we’ve been waiting for (that won’t be out till the end of the year, with a draft coming out in Thanksgiving), but this should at least clear up some questions, and start the feedback process. I was originally going to blog this when I first heard about it, but was asked by my source to hold off for awhile. However, now that Jeff has the scoop out, I figured it was ok for me to also blog about it.
According to Jeff:
Someone asked what sort of regulations regarding “human-rating” of a crew transport vehicle would apply here. Sponberg said that, during the development phase, NASA would be open to using the FAA’s own regulations for the vehicle, since it would only be carrying one or more commercial pilots. However, once NASA starts to procure actual crew transport services, with the vehicle carrying NASA astronauts, NASA would “absolutely” require the vehicle to meet its human-rating requirements.
This does appear to leave the door open for a commercially crewed cargo container operating only under FAA regulations instead of NASA Human Rating requirements. It’s kind of funny that NASA feels FAA regulations (ie the AST launch licensing process) is good enough for commercial pilots to fly on, but has to molly-coddle their astronauts with “human rating” requirements.
All that aside, this is potentially very good news. Any time NASA starts acting more like a customer than a tax-funded competitor is a good thing.