ASAP Report: SpaceX, Orbital Sciences Do Not Meet COTS Human Spaceflight Standards
[Satellite TODAY 01-21-10] The U.S. Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) claimed that launch vehicles by SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corp. currently do not meet the required safety standards to transport NASA personnel for the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, according to ASAP’s 2009 annual report, released Jan. 15.
ASAP said it reviewed the program’s human rating requirements for potential commercial and international entities, extension of the shuttle beyond the current manifest, the workforce transition from the shuttle to the follow-on program, the need for candid public communications about the risks of human spaceflight and more aggressive use of robots to reduce the risk of human exploration.
“To abandon Ares 1I as a baseline vehicle for an alternative without demonstrated capability nor proven superiority (or even equivalence) is unwise and probably not cost-effective. The ability of any current COTS design to ‘close the gap’ or even provide an equivalent degree of safety is speculative,” ASAP said in the report.
The report also stated that commercial entities and international partners will “likely have a larger role in transporting both cargo and crew to orbit,” and suggested that NASA establish safety certification requirements, a certification process for orbital transportation vehicles and a process for validating compliance.
SpaceX and Orbital Sciences could not be reached for comment.