…of NASA’s resistance to commercial competition, in a comment (number 31) over at Space Politics by Al Fansome:
For the last 25 years, NASA has had to be brought KICKING & SCREAMING every step of the way — into a partnership with commercial industry. It has been resisted by the NASA iron triangle (NASA + contractors + Center politicians).
* The DOT was given the legal authority by Congress in the 1980s to regulate commercial space transportation over the objections of the traditional status quo space powers.
* Commercial payloads were taken off of the Shuttle after Challenger by the Reagan Administration over the active opposition of the then NASA Administrator (Fletcher).
* The Launch Services Purchase Act of 1990 — which was the first law mandating that NASA buy commercial space transportation services — was passed by Congress over the objections of NASA.
* Instead of partnering with the American Rocket Company in the late 1980s, NASA MSFC created a competing hybrid rocket R&D program in an attempt to put AMROC out of business. (They succeeded.)
* The Congress passed the Commercial Space Act of 1998 that mandated that NASA should purchase ISS cargo resupply services. NASA resisted that mandate for 6 years — until Columbia happened and the Bush Administration created the Commercial/Crew Cargo services budget as part of the VSE in 2004. In December 2008, over 10 years after CSA98 passed, NASA finally signed an ISS cargo services delivery contract.
* NASA is still resisting doing commercial crew — which was part of the original official VSE plan (it was the CREW/cargo services program in the VSE). It has taken a national commission of space experts — reporting to the White House — to unequivocably recommend (its in all the options) that NASA institute a commercial crew (instead of Ares 1).
* NASA could have instituted “propellant depots” as part of the national strategy years ago. Why were propellant depots so obvious to the Augustine Commission as a key enable for our national goals in space, but ignored by the traditional NASA bureaucracy?
It is not because the NASA bureaucracy is dumb. I assert the reason is that creating a depot based architecture is not in the “bureaucratic interest” of NASA, as it outsources a large portion of the supply chain for exploration to commercial providers.
Prediction — NASA will resist creating propellant depots to the extent it is given the means to do so.
I think it’s a safe prediction. Those means have to be restricted. Though at least, this time, I think that we have top NASA administration on the right side.
[Early afternoon update]
He left out the saga of the Industrial Space Facility.