Who Is Aerospace and What Do They Want In Commercial Space?

Posted: August 4, 2010 in Aerospace Corporation, Commercial Space, El Segundo, Overhead, SpaceX

The Aerospace Corporation is a federally funded research and development organization.  To those in the space industry, their name is pretty familiar.

Now, having been involved in oversight of USAF and NRO boosters and spacecraft for 50 years, they want to expand further into the NASA arena, especially as commercial space players like SpaceX are actually launching rockets, and successfully at that.

Of course the whole oversight thing is contrary to what commercial space is all about.  Additionally, it runs counter to efforts typified at the Pentagon where the SecDef has said overhead accounts for 40 percent of total spending.

Given the fact the Pentagon itself is inauditable, that 40 percent claim is obviously a rough estimate.  Still, adding Aerospace overhead, some of the most expensive overhead there is, to commercial space is a certain recipe for cost increases.

A number of years ago, Aerospace wanted to go public, a move that would have created a windfall for some individuals within the company.  The USAF blocked the move and that’s where it stands today, as a federally funded effort.

During my time at a space launch unit, our on-site Aerospace guy was one of the two or three most trusted and valuable folks on the launch team and added mission assurance value to everything we did.  He’d worked the same launch program for about 35 years.

The rest of the Aerospace army may have added value as well (or not), but I’m absolutely positive they added plenty of cost.

How much cost does Aerospace add?  I’m unsure, but enough that a commercial space provider wouldn’t be willing to take that sort of cost risk and certainly enough to make a big difference in bid and proposal work.

Would a commercial space provider feel comfortable with a firm fixed price bid knowing someone like Aerospace might be directing re-work (and at minimum, data calls and meetings) all along the way?

Do you think SpaceX will post their cost-to-space on their web page if Aerospace is part of the equation?


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