Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS

To Close the “Gap” in U.S. Human Spaceflight
NASA’s COTS program can help close the “gap” in U.S. human spaceflight after Shuttle retirement and reduce our dependence upon Russia, but just as importantly it will also create a competitive American human orbital spaceflight industry. This new industry will lower prices and stimulate innovation, spark the large-scale economic development of space, and generate millions of new jobs. NASA is currently completing assembly of the International Space Station (ISS), after which it will retire the Space Shuttle, currently planned for the end of 2010. NASA must provide both cargo and crew transportation to the ISS for its entire operational lifetime, which will go through 2016 and perhaps until 2020. With the Shuttle retired, NASA must purchase this transportation from U.S. commercial providers (if available) or its international partners, especially Russia, whose Soyuz is the only non-Shuttle crew system designed to support the ISS. Therefore NASA will be wholly dependent upon Russia for human access to the ISS, at least until Orion flies in 2015 or later, producing a “Gap” in U.S. human spaceflight. To that end, NASA has already signed a multi-year contract with the Russian Space Agency to buy crew transfer and rescue services, and recently announced an extension of this contract through at least 2015. While Russia has been a good partner on the ISS, its recent military intervention in Georgia and use of its energy supplies as leverage on its neighbors suggest that America’s long-term dependence on the Russian Soyuz may not be in America’s best interest. Russia could withdraw its support for ISS in a foreign policy crisis, in effect forcing America to abandon its $100 Billion investment in the ISS, or more likely, simply threaten this to gain leverage. Fortunately, NASA has already provided $500 million of funding under the COTS program to two companies to develop new cargo delivery systems. But no funds have been allocated to stimulating a U.S. commercial crew transportation capability. NASA’s long-term contract extension with Russia for ISS crew transportation actually discourages American industry from investing in human space transportation systems. By allocating $1 billion or more to a COTS Crew initiative, NASA could stimulate the rapid development of multiple U.S. crew spacecraft concepts using existing or near-term launch vehicles. This would be the quickest, most efficient, and highest probability-of-success mechanism to actually close the Space Gap. Just as important, this COTS Crew effort would actually enable the U.S. to fully utilize the scientific and industrial research capabilities of ISS and deliver a return on investment to America’s taxpayers. Alternative ISS Transportation Futures – With and Without COTS-Crew
With COTS-Crew ($1B) Best Case Crew Transfer # US Crew Systems Years ISS Utilization Worst Case Crew Transfer # US Crew Systems Years ISS Utilization 2015 (100% delay) 2 5 2014 (67% delay) 3 6 2018 (3 year schedule slip) 1 (Orion) 2 2012 4 (3 COTS + Orion in 2015) 8 2012 6 (5 COTS + Orion in 2015) 8 2015 1 (Orion) 5 With COTS-Crew ($2B) Without COTS-Crew

Space Frontier Foundation

November 2008